In an age where environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations are at the forefront of global business operations, transparency and accountability regarding sustainability-related financial information have become imperative. To meet this demand, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation introduced the IFRS S1 - General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information. This comprehensive standard aims to provide guidance to entities on how to disclose relevant sustainability-related information in their general-purpose financial reports effectively. In this article, we will delve into the key aspects of IFRS S1 to help you better understand its significance and implications.
One fundamental aspect of IFRS S1 is ensuring that sustainability-related financial disclosures are aligned with the reporting entity's financial statements. This means that the disclosed information should pertain to the same entity for which financial statements are prepared. For example, if a company issues consolidated financial statements, the sustainability-related disclosures should cover the parent company and its subsidiaries as a single reporting entity. This alignment facilitates users' comprehension of how sustainability-related risks and opportunities affect cash flows, access to finance, and the cost of capital over different timeframes.
IFRS S1 emphasises the importance of providing connected information, enabling users to understand the relationships between various items and disclosures in general purpose financial reports. This includes illustrating connections between sustainability-related opportunities or risks and the entity's strategies or financial performance. These connections offer insights into how an entity's sustainability-related decisions impact its overall performance.
Connected information also addresses relationships between different sustainability-related risks and opportunities. For instance, if a company integrates the management of various sustainability-related risks and opportunities, it should consolidate governance disclosures rather than providing separate ones for each.
IFRS S1 acknowledges that some sustainability-related information may be available in other reports published by the entity, such as the related financial statements. In such cases, cross-referencing is allowed as long as the cross-referenced information adheres to the same standards of relevance, faithfulness, comparability, verifiability, timeliness, and understandability. Responsibility for cross-referenced information falls on the same body or individuals that authorise the general purpose financial reports.
To balance timeliness and cost considerations, entities can provide less information in interim sustainability-related financial disclosures compared to their annual reports. However, these interim disclosures should focus on new information, events, and circumstances and avoid duplicating previously reported information. Entities are not discouraged from presenting a complete set of sustainability-related financial disclosures in their interim reports if it aligns with the standard.
IFRS S1 requires entities to provide comparative information for all disclosed amounts in the reporting period. This ensures that users have a clear understanding of how sustainability-related information has evolved over time, offering valuable insights into trends and changes.
Sustainability-related financial information should possess fundamental qualitative characteristics like relevance, materiality, faithful representation, neutrality, accuracy, comparability, verifiability, timeliness, and understandability. These characteristics ensure that the information is not only useful but also reliable and transparent.
In addition to the fundamental qualities, enhancing characteristics like comparability, verifiability, timeliness, and understandability further boost the utility of sustainability-related financial information. Comparability allows users to make meaningful comparisons across periods and entities, while verifiability builds confidence in the information's accuracy. Timeliness ensures that the information is up-to-date, and understandability enhances clarity.
IFRS S1, the General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information, plays a crucial role in promoting transparency and accountability in disclosing sustainability-related data. By aligning sustainability disclosures with financial statements, emphasising connected information, and adhering to qualitative and enhancing characteristics, entities can provide stakeholders with a comprehensive view of their sustainability performance. As sustainability continues to be a focal point for businesses and investors, compliance with IFRS S1 will contribute to more informed decision-making and a more sustainable future.