Processes of auditability in sustainability assurance - the case of materiality construction

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Title: Processes of auditability in sustainability assurance - the case of materiality construction
Authors: Canning, Mary
O'Dwyer, Brendan
Georgakopoulos, George
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/9872
Date: 8-May-2018
Online since: 2019-04-09T12:10:41Z
Abstract: This study examines how financial audit-styled concepts such as materiality are transferred to non-financial audit arenas. Drawing on a case study of assurors working within a Big 4 professional services firm, we uncover a number of interrelated features of the materiality determination and assessment process within sustainability assurance (assurance on sustainability reports). We illustrate how assuror flexibility, underpinned by assuror intuition, is central to uncovering assurance technologies deemed capable of addressing the materiality of ambiguous sustainability data. Assurors with no financial audit background retrospectively rationalise their intuition using the assumed authority of structured financial audit methodologies. This facilitates the tentative translation of financial audit knowledge to the sustainability assurance domain. Collaborative, holistic decision making processes inform the assurors’ continual construction of materiality and are characterised by alliances of (accountant and non-accountant) ‘expert’ assurors merging formal and tacit knowledge. These alliances seek social cohesion within sustainability assurance teams in order to establish a social consensus among assurors around the materiality determination and assessment process. Our analysis develops and extends Power’s theorisation of how new areas are made auditable and advances our understanding of the more practical aspects of non-financial assurance services offered by Big 4 professional services firms.
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Journal: Accounting and Business Research
Volume: 49
Issue: 1
Start page: 1
End page: 27
Copyright (published version): 2018 the Authors
Keywords: MaterialityFinancial auditSustainability assuranceMateriality thresholdsSustainability reportingAuditability
DOI: 10.1080/00014788.2018.1442208
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Business Research Collection

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