Why is the assurance of social and environmental disclosures stalling within New Zealand
Robertson, Bradley Neil
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
New Zealand has a low prevalence of both social and environmental reporting, and assurance. However, while the number of reporters in New Zealand has continued to rise, the amount of assured reporters has been declining. This thesis seeks to understand why assurance practice is declining, what the causal factors are, and why New Zealand appears to be incongruent with rising levels of international assurance practice. It also aims to discover what might drive increased assurance adoption within New Zealand in the future. Through utilising a pilot study of the current trends in New Zealand social and environmental reporting and assurance over a nine year period, the extent of assurance adoption decline is documented. New Zealand's assurance providers, and the country's non-assured, formerly assured, and currently assured organisations are interviewed regarding their position on assurance adoption. Benefits and barriers to assurance, stakeholder use and need for assurance, material differences between New Zealand and international practice, whether assurance is poised to increase in the future, and what will potentially drive assurance in the future are investigated. This thesis discovers several barriers to assurance adoption including: cost, lack of perceived internal and external value, lack of pressure from stakeholders, difficulties surrounding the assurance engagement, under-developed reporting, and assurance having a diminishing value over time. The benefits identified were not as strong as the barriers in most cases. Internal benefits were generally perceived to be greater than the external benefits, as organisations noted questionable credibility enhancement. Overall, a lack of drivers for assurance exists. Lack of stakeholder pressure is the key overriding barrier halting assurance adoption. An increase in assurance adoption could eventuate if increased societal awareness and desire for disclosures, pressure from export markets, and a change in presentation and communication of disclosures occurred.