In the second quarter of 2018, the European Commission launched a “Fitness check on the EU framework for public reporting by companies“. This public consultation, which covered both accounting standards and non-financial reporting, was one of the measures announced in the “Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth” launched by the Commission in March 2018
The experts associated with the Energy and Prosperity Chair who responded to this public consultation made the following point.
While accounting is often considered a neutral information system for measuring a company’s wealth and income, this is not the case in reality. The results, the benefits, the costs that many consider to be objective data are conventional data for accountants, i.e. obeying predefined social rules (this is for example the case of depreciation periods for durable assets such as buildings that are not linked to the real life of the asset). These conventions convey a vision of the company. They result of social and political processes in which actors confront each other in order to shape in their own way the representation and distribution of wealth produced in companies. That is why accounting systems are different from one country to another
Sustainability issues are absent from the underlying vision of accounting systems, which don’t integrate companies’ impacts on natural and human capital. Non-financial reporting is supposed to guide companies on sustainable issues but its impact on corporate strategies is far less important than those of accounting standards. As long as climate change, land degradation or human rights abuses only marginally affect companies’ business model, it is unrealistic to assume that all economic actors will act upt to the challenges.
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