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IFAC’s Asia Pacific Sustainability Exchange Stresses Global, Integrated Support for Global Sustainability Disclosure

Tanya Musumhi  | 
A man in a suit speaking at a podium next to a white table

In April 2024, the IFAC Asia Pacific Sustainability Exchange in Singapore highlighted the profession’s pivotal role in driving sustainability. This gathering served as a convergence point for expertise and insight in sustainability and accountancy, uniting professionals and stakeholders from a diverse audience. Attendees included representatives from PAOs, Forum of Firms, regulators, standard setters, policymakers, academics, investors, and other key contributors to sustainability. As the first in a series and part of a larger IFAC effort, this event underscored a broader commitment to advancing sustainability practices within the accounting profession. Mohammad Shariq Sayeed Barmaky, Vice President of ISCA, opened the event, emphasizing mandatory climate-related disclosures coming into effect in Singapore and practical guidance for assurance standards. The event encouraged accountants and auditors to actively participate in capacity building for a sustainable future, empowering change by fostering continuous development and integrated support rather than taking mere snapshots of progress.

Crowd of people sitting on white chairs in a large ballroom

Following these remarks, Lee White, IFAC's Chief Executive Officer, praised Singapore's innovative approaches and stressed the importance of sustainability, mandatory climate-related disclosures, and practical assurance guidance.

A man spreaking in a suit at a podium in a large room in front of a screen

David Madon, Director of Sustainability, Policy & Regulatory Affairs, IFAC, highlighted four key opportunities and challenges: integrating sustainability with financial expertise, building a harmonized global reporting system using the ISSB baseline, ensuring high-quality, independent assurance by adopting ISSA 5000, and capacity building through education and awareness.


Five panelists speaking at a white table with microphones

The first panel opened with a video discussion between Jingdong Hua, ISSB Vice Chair, and David Madon on ISSB standards adoption. The ISSB Chair highlighted progress in Asia Pacific, especially in Singapore and Hong Kong S.A.R., and noted global efforts in Brazil, Canada, Japan, and China. He stressed aligning standards to attract investment and support sustainability, discussing the current interoperability between ISSB standards and other regional frameworks.

The subsequent panel, moderated by Lee White, discussed global adoption and implementation of ISSB standards—to build a global reporting system. Panelists highlighted extensive consultation processes, the need for robust ecosystems for sustainable reporting, and the importance of ISSB standards. They addressed challenges of regulatory fragmentation, emphasizing consistent, high-quality reporting. The discussion underscored global momentum, including in the ASEAN region, towards unified sustainability reporting and tailored regional approaches. Capacity building was emphasized as crucial for implementing these standards, with examples such as the establishment of task forces to lead sustainability reporting initiatives and the rapid upskilling of professionals to meet high-quality assurance standards.

Next, Dave Warren, IPSASB Director, discussed the importance of sustainability reporting in the public sector. He highlighted the need for governments to report on sustainability given their role in managing public assets and regulating behaviors. IPSASB began its sustainability reporting efforts in 2022, aligning with ISSB standards for consistency. IPSASB will focus on general disclosures and climate-related information first. Warren mentioned that as IPSASB develops its climate-related disclosure standards, the public sector's unique ability to set policies will also be addressed. IPSASB aims to finalize climate-related disclosure standards by 2025, emphasizing transparency and alignment with private sector frameworks.  An Exposure Draft is expected to be issued for consultation later in 2024.

The event then turned its focus to another challenge facing the profession—high quality sustainability assurance, conducted with ethics and independence. Tom Seidenstein and Gabriela Figueiredo Diaz, co-CEOs of the International Foundation for Ethics and Audit (IFEA), discussed the progress of their respective boards on sustainability-related standard setting projects. Tom highlighted the importance of establishing a robust sustainability reporting system as the foundation for sustainability assurance and the IAASB’s work to finalize  ISSA 5000—a new, overarching sustainability assurance standard. Gabriela introduced proposed international ethics standards to ensure reliable sustainability information, assurance,  and to combat greenwashing. Both emphasized the need for collaboration and stakeholder engagement in finalizing these standards.

Addressing The State of Play 2019-2022 Trends and Analysis, David Madon presented IFAC's four-year initiative on sustainability reporting and assurance among major companies. The 2022 report showed 98% of companies now engage in sustainability reporting, with assurance rates rising to nearly 70%. Audit firms conducted 58% of these engagements, while other service providers handled 42%. The study highlighted the importance of high-quality, independent assurance, advocating for the adoption of ISA 5000 as a global standard to ensure the reliability of ESG disclosures.

Following this, a panel, moderated by Chiew Chun Wee, Regional Lead Policy & Insights, Asia Pacific, ACCA, addressed the current state and future challenges in sustainability assurance. The discussion emphasized the need for consistent, robust application of new standards across jurisdictions. The panel explored practical implementation of ISSA 5000 and IESBA standards, highlighting the importance of collaboration among regulators, accounting firms, and professional bodies to build capacity and ensure these standards' success globally. Key topics included integrating sustainability and financial expertise into connected assurance engagements, overcoming capacity challenges, and fostering a harmonized approach to sustainability reporting and assurance.

David Madon then set the stage for a panel discussion amongst investment professionals,.  Emphasizing emerging best practices in sustainability disclosure that support investor-useful information. He stressed connected reporting and assurance, , advocating for a phased approach to implementation of disclosure that meets investor expectations, and the importance of  managing expectations amongst investors and other stakeholders during the transition from voluntary to mandatory requirements. He also highlighted new IFAC research on corporate governance in sustainability.

Subsequently, a panel moderated by Julia Tay, Asia Pacific Public Policy Leader, EY, let an investor panel discussion.  The panelists highlighted the shift from voluntary to regulated frameworks, emphasizing financial relevance—ensuring disclosed information directly impacts a company’s financial health and long-term value. They stressed the need for reliable data and high-quality, independent assurance to build trust and mitigate greenwashing. The discussion also covered governance, underscoring the need for board-level oversight, strategic alignment, and executive incentives. The panelists called for a continuous dialogue among companies, investors, and regulators to enhance sustainability reporting and reduce fragmentation.

Attention then shifted to sustainability capacity building, focusing first on educational/knowledge building within the accountancy profession and then on the steps companies must take to not only report on sustainability-related matters but to integrate sustainability into their strategy, governance, and management.

Bruce Vivian, IFAC’s Head of Accountancy Education, updated the audience on proposed enhancements to the International Education Standards (IES).  An Exposure Draft published by IFAC during the event outlines the changes to education curricula needed to prepare aspiring professional accountants for sustainability reporting and assurance. The proposals recommend integrating sustainability into all aspects of accountancy education, rather than only addressing it through separate modules or certificates. Finally, Bruce highlighted the need for PAOs and firms to work closely with educators to ensure that formal education is aligned to emerging practice.

Four case studies were presented, focusing on upskilling members and staff in sustainability:

  1. KICPA (Korea): Established an ESG Academy to train members in sustainability, offering a structured three-phase curriculum and certifications.
  2. JICPA (Japan): Issued sustainability reporting standards, focusing on mandatory adoption by 2027, and developed a comprehensive syllabus for capacity building.
  3. Grant Thornton: Developed foundational sustainability training and on-the-job learning programs, leveraging small teams and experienced practitioners.
  4. ACCA: Launched the "Accounting for a Better World" initiative, integrating sustainability into research, qualifications, and introducing a new diploma in sustainability.

Following the case studies, Lindawati Gani,  IAI Council Member/Member, IAI Monitoring Board of Sustainability Standards (DPSK IAI), moderated a fireside chat with Nikita Asthana, Head of Sustainability Finance at Olam Agri. They discussed Olam Agri's integration of sustainability into business processes, focusing on credible supply chain data and comprehensive ESG reporting. Nikita highlighted collaboration with risk, M&A, IT, and internal audit departments. Their prior TCFD reporting prepared them for ISSB standards. Assurance processes were essential for high-quality decision-making information. The importance of materiality assessment, capacity building, and strong CEO support was emphasized.

A panel of six people discussing at a white table with microphones

The concluding  session of the day, moderated by Lee White, gathered thought leaders to discuss the role of the profession in sustainability—returning to IFAC’s four challenges and opportunities framework. The focus was on integrating sustainability within companies, building a global reporting system, ensuring trust through assurance, and capacity building. Panelists shared insights on successful implementation, such as Japan's integrated reporting approach, Malaysia's recent progress in sustainability reporting, Pakistan's phased implementation strategy, and the importance of education and collaboration. The discussion highlighted the necessity of ongoing support, collaboration, and structured approaches to sustainability and assurance to keep pace with evolving standards.

The event concluded with a commitment to continuous improvement and support for global sustainability efforts.

Tanya Musumhi

Tanya Musumhi is an IFAC regional manager, responsible for the Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe regions. In this role, she helps IFAC’s member organizations and other professional accountancy organizations adopt and implement international standards and best practices and ensure the relevance and resiliance of the accountancy profession. Prior to her time at IFAC, Tanya was a grant capacity senior program manager at World Vision US.  

Tanya holds an MA in International Law and Economics from the World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland (2009) and an MA in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (2007).