Advanced

The Development and Use of Standards by Non-state Actors: A Study of the Dynamics of Regulating Sustainability Assurance

Sonnerfeldt, Amanda LU (2011)
Abstract
Non-state actors have been increasingly engaged in regulation, operating and setting rules outside of, and parallel to, existing legal institutions. These “alternative to legal rules” have been increasingly influential in domestic law and policy, with growing evidence of them penetrating legal, professional, as well as social orders. This thesis adopts the case of sustainability assurance to analyze regulation through standards by the accountancy profession, in an area outside its core competence. The thesis focuses on how sustainability assurance standards by non-state actors are developed at the international level, and with the case of Sweden, how standards in this area are developed and used at a national level. This thesis has drawn... (More)
Non-state actors have been increasingly engaged in regulation, operating and setting rules outside of, and parallel to, existing legal institutions. These “alternative to legal rules” have been increasingly influential in domestic law and policy, with growing evidence of them penetrating legal, professional, as well as social orders. This thesis adopts the case of sustainability assurance to analyze regulation through standards by the accountancy profession, in an area outside its core competence. The thesis focuses on how sustainability assurance standards by non-state actors are developed at the international level, and with the case of Sweden, how standards in this area are developed and used at a national level. This thesis has drawn on the applied socio-legal perspective, which enables looking beyond the ontological rule model used in traditional legal research. The analysis had been conducted using multi-paradigms to capture the context, in which sustainability assurance standards were drafted and applied; the developments in the contents of standards; and the dynamic interaction between the two, in regulating sustainability assurance.

Empirical evidence shows the presence of polymorphous actors that brought competing concepts and regulatory logic into the space. The patterns of influence in the regulatory space highlight the normative challenges of decentred regulation. The empirical observations of standards in action provided insights on how standards work as a regulatory instrument, its properties and inherent limitations. Findings show that the scope, linguistic structure and character of standards affect how and who interprets the standard. The analysis of the Swedish case led to the conclusion that the distribution of discretion in a multi-levelled regulatory regime depended on the choices exercised by standard setters at each level.

At the international level, the AA1000AS by AccountAbility remains the only international standard drafted specifically to guide sustainability assurance. Unless national sustainability assurance standards are available, assurance providers from the accountancy profession continue to apply ISAE3000. Sustainability assurance engagements performed by the accountancy profession in Sweden are guided by RevR6. RevR6(2006) was aligned with ISAE3000 that represents the accountancy profession’s conceptual understanding of assurance. The amorphousness of RevR6(2006) allowed engagements to suit practical circumstances and assurance providers to customise the scope of the assurance to each engagement. Sustainability assurance however, is potentially supervised by the Supervisory Board of Public Accountants, based on the legal concept of an audit. The case shows a fragmentation of systems, within which sustainability assurance engagements operate which potentially lead to uncertainty and systemic challenges. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Emeritus Professor Owen, David, Nottingham University, UK
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
International standards on assurance engagements, Regulatory Space, Accountancy Profession, Decentred regulation, Standards, Non-state actors, Ustainability, Assurance
pages
328 pages
publisher
Lund University (Media-Tryck)
defense location
EC3-210
defense date
2011-12-08 10:00
ISBN
978-91-7473-192-7
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1a324fbb-9857-404a-a4e9-94a04b56e8a5 (old id 2204234)
date added to LUP
2011-11-14 15:21:59
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:07
@phdthesis{1a324fbb-9857-404a-a4e9-94a04b56e8a5,
  abstract     = {Non-state actors have been increasingly engaged in regulation, operating and setting rules outside of, and parallel to, existing legal institutions. These “alternative to legal rules” have been increasingly influential in domestic law and policy, with growing evidence of them penetrating legal, professional, as well as social orders. This thesis adopts the case of sustainability assurance to analyze regulation through standards by the accountancy profession, in an area outside its core competence. The thesis focuses on how sustainability assurance standards by non-state actors are developed at the international level, and with the case of Sweden, how standards in this area are developed and used at a national level. This thesis has drawn on the applied socio-legal perspective, which enables looking beyond the ontological rule model used in traditional legal research. The analysis had been conducted using multi-paradigms to capture the context, in which sustainability assurance standards were drafted and applied; the developments in the contents of standards; and the dynamic interaction between the two, in regulating sustainability assurance.<br/><br>
Empirical evidence shows the presence of polymorphous actors that brought competing concepts and regulatory logic into the space. The patterns of influence in the regulatory space highlight the normative challenges of decentred regulation. The empirical observations of standards in action provided insights on how standards work as a regulatory instrument, its properties and inherent limitations. Findings show that the scope, linguistic structure and character of standards affect how and who interprets the standard. The analysis of the Swedish case led to the conclusion that the distribution of discretion in a multi-levelled regulatory regime depended on the choices exercised by standard setters at each level. <br/><br>
At the international level, the AA1000AS by AccountAbility remains the only international standard drafted specifically to guide sustainability assurance. Unless national sustainability assurance standards are available, assurance providers from the accountancy profession continue to apply ISAE3000. Sustainability assurance engagements performed by the accountancy profession in Sweden are guided by RevR6. RevR6(2006) was aligned with ISAE3000 that represents the accountancy profession’s conceptual understanding of assurance. The amorphousness of RevR6(2006) allowed engagements to suit practical circumstances and assurance providers to customise the scope of the assurance to each engagement. Sustainability assurance however, is potentially supervised by the Supervisory Board of Public Accountants, based on the legal concept of an audit. The case shows a fragmentation of systems, within which sustainability assurance engagements operate which potentially lead to uncertainty and systemic challenges.},
  author       = {Sonnerfeldt, Amanda},
  isbn         = {978-91-7473-192-7},
  keyword      = {International standards on assurance engagements,Regulatory Space,Accountancy Profession,Decentred regulation,Standards,Non-state actors,Ustainability,Assurance},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {328},
  publisher    = {Lund University (Media-Tryck)},
  school       = {Lund University},
  title        = {The Development and Use of Standards by Non-state Actors: A Study of the Dynamics of Regulating Sustainability Assurance},
  year         = {2011},
}