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The market for sustainability assurance services: A comprehensive literature review and future avenues for research

Muhammad Bilal Farooq (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Charl de Villiers (The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand and University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)

Pacific Accounting Review

ISSN: 0114-0582

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




This paper focuses on the market for sustainability assurance (SA) services. The aims of this paper are to review academic efforts in the field, highlighting ground covered, provide a comprehensive understanding of the market for this new form of assurance and identify potential avenues for future research.


These objectives were met through a review of 50 academic journal articles identified as relevant to the SA field.


SA is a voluntary exercise in most jurisdictions, and engagements are structured to meet the needs (demands) of the market and the capabilities (supply) of assurance providers. This has given rise to a diverse landscape with engagements of differing scopes and objectives. From a demand side, the literature reveals a number of drivers (both at the macro and micro levels) and inhibitors for SA services. From a supply side, the literature sheds light on the assurance providers operating in the market and the standards they use when undertaking SA services. These practitioners include accountants (the big four) who use ISAE3000 and non-accountants who prefer AA1000AS. The review reveals five broad areas which have been the focus of existing studies. Finally, the study identifies seven avenues for future research in the SA field.


The findings of this paper will prove valuable to practitioners as it will assist them in understanding this new form of assurance. Researchers will benefit from an understanding on ground covered and future avenues for research.



The authors thank the reviewer, discussant and participants of the 2016 Auckland Regional Accounting (ARA) Conference held in November 2016 at the Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, for their helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper.


Farooq, M.B. and de Villiers, C. (2017), "The market for sustainability assurance services: A comprehensive literature review and future avenues for research", Pacific Accounting Review, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 79-106.



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