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LONDON: A new study from analysts Verdantix has identified six leading suppliers of sustainability assurance - Bureau Veritas, Deloitte, DNV, EY, KPMG and PwC - for greenhouse gas data (GHG), carbon disclosure, sustainability reports, supply chain compliance, product sustainability and sustainability management systems.

rodolphe  dArjuzonRodolphe d'Arjuzon (right), Verdantix managing director, says that while the global market for sustainability assurance is maturing, it is complicated by consulting, financial audit or environmental certification suppliers who are competing for buyers' attention: "In Australia, South Africa and Western Europe there is appetite for broader assurance engagements – with spend ranges between five and 12 percent of financial audit fees – but in countries like Canada, China or the United States assurance spend is often derisory," he declares.

The study identified 29 providers of sustainability assurance but found only nine that have the capability to deliver globally. The comparison was based on 63 assessment criteria and in-depth interviews with 15 customers with collective revenues of US$351 billion. For example, Bureau Veritas has assured the reporting of AstraZeneca, Lukoil, Nestlé and Network Rail.

Verdantix concludes that the six providers have in common a large client list; a service offering that integrates many areas of expertise; a commitment to shaping market standards; a well-established marketing programme and an innovative approach to product and supply chain sustainability.

An earlier survey by the company of 250 companies in 13 countries found that 46 percent currently pay for assurance of their GHG data and 39 percent invest in assurance of their sustainability reports.

"The market for sustainability assurance will be shaped by the growth curve of sustainability reporting, increased pressure from stock exchanges for more complete environmental, social and governance disclosures and mandatory rules on GHG emissions reporting" says d'Arjuzon.

"By 2015 we anticipate growth in spending on assurance by the Fortune 500 will reach the low double digits as US firms play catch up with Europe on GRI reporting, new drivers such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board come into play and emerging markets stock exchanges up the ante on integrated reporting and CSR commitments," he adds.

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