Third Party Commentaries

What benefit do third party commentaries provide?

Both of the two most common types of external assurances found in sustainability reports involve the engagement of qualified persons outside the organization to comment on and provide opinions about the report, but they play quite different roles.

  • an independent third party such as a professional assurance provider’s independent review
  • the organization’s stakeholders’ third party commentaries

An independent third party reviews the reported information and then expresses a professional opinion on the accuracy or reliability of the information.  External assurance tends to be more rigorous than internal assurances, especially if the work is carried out in accordance with recognized assurance standards.

Along with an independent assurance statement, some organizations ask stakeholders to provide what are called “third party commentaries.” However, they are used to assess the performance of the organization and its reporting, not the accuracy of the data. Important stakeholders can identify recommendations for the organization to improve its performance and its reporting (such as the depth of analysis of a topic, the inclusion of material aspects, or the balance of negative with positive aspects of performance), but they do not provide professional assurance reviews. Third party commentaries can be provided alone or combined with an independent third party review in a report.