Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Accounting News Roundup: Sustainability Accounting and Me Time | 05.04.16

Sustainability accounting

Last month, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board announced that it had finished developing its provisional standards for 79 industries. "Provisional" implies that the standards are not "generally accepted" so rather than GASAP we have, uh, PSAP? In any case, if you're into obscure reporting standards, PSAP are now available for public comment through July 6 and here's an interesting post from Dr. Bob Eccles, SASB's founding Chairman, that explains what's coming next:

[A]s part of its disclosure effectiveness initiative, the SEC is considering whether investors need better disclosure on sustainability information that is material. The SEC has recently issued a concept release on disclosure reform for a 90-day public comment period. The release includes 11 pages of discussion of sustainability disclosure and eight questions on which the SEC seeks input. This presents an opportunity for investors to tell the SEC that sustainability accounting standards will yield the type of disclosure that investors need to make informed decisions.

The question is — will investors take that opportunity? I'm sure some will, but seeing how many people think there's too much disclosure, it's hard to imagine the SEC getting on board wholeheartedly (although the two former SEC Chairs on SASB's board could help).

Dr. Eccles admits that it's too soon because the standards need to be "stress-tested in practice" but that "investors [need] to start asking their portfolio companies to provide them information based on SASB’s standards." Eventually, he says, "companies and investors should collectively and willingly call on the appropriate regulator to make this reporting mandatory."

Again, the question is, "Will they?" and I'm not so sure. It's hard enough convincing people to report financial information that conforms with GAAP. If investors start demanding pre-GASAP (aka PSAP) reporting, it won't be long before companies start issuing non-pre-GASAP metrics, excluding the stuff they don't like and then we'll have lots of worrying about non-pre-GASAP accounting. Man, accounting standards have gotten complicated. 

Accounting firm CEOs

CEOs are a polished crowd. They stay on message and are unflappable. Part of this is talent and part of it is training, but they rarely state anything unequivocally and stay mindful of how they say and how they say it. So you can understand why a headline like "EY boss Weinberger says heads will roll if Slater-Quindell investigation uncovers wrongdoing" would grab my attention. I mean, come on, Mark Weinberger didn't say that, did he?

"I don't know the facts of the [Slater & Gordon] situation," Mr Weinberger said. "But I can guarantee if that happens too many times in one place, leaders aren't going to be around there much longer to be doing the work."

I don't know the facts of the Slater & Gordon situation either but I can tell you, that's about as extemporaneous as it gets for your average Big 4 CEO.  

Me days

One thing I love about modern work perks and benefits is how shameless they all are. Paid tuition, unlimited vacation, fraternity atmosphere — companies claim to be "listening to our employees' concerns" when, really, they're all just stunts that draw attention to stuff that most people don't care about at all. The latest development in work benefit bullshit is ME TIME:

While her co-workers reviewed budgets back at the office one recent Friday, Holly Pickering was wandering in the woods at a yoga retreat.

Ms. Pickering, a yield analyst at a travel company, wasn’t on vacation, nor was she taking a mental-health day. She was indulging in some “me time,” and her employer was all for it.

A handful of companies have begun offering workers paid days off to spend on themselves, in addition to vacation time and personal and sick days.

Come on. That's paid time-off, right? Or does it qualify as "me time" because she's only expected to check emails between yoga sessions?

Other companies take a different approach:

At Waterford Research Institute LLC, a nonprofit group focused on education, staff members get twice-a-year “Ferris Bueller” days, named for the 1986 Matthew Broderick movie about students who skip school to spend an antic day in Chicago.

Wait a minute, so Waterford basically gives you two free hooky days? The whole point of playing hooky is that you don't have permission. There's a certain amount of rebellious satisfaction to playing hooky and now you've robbed people of it. Just stop already.

Previously, on Going Concern…

Megan Lewczyk wrote about privileged access. I wrote about post-busy season depression. And in Open Items, someone wants out of audit.

In other news:

Get the Accounting News Roundup in your inbox every weekday by signing up here.