This article discusses initial experiences with a new assurance service: the verification of sustainability reports providing assertions regarding financial, environmental, and social issues. For illustration purposes, references to the verification of The Shell Report 2000 are made. Because of the new content and format of sustainability reports, established standards for reporting and verification are not yet available. Therefore, applying specifically developed criteria is inevitable.
In this article, examples and characteristics of criteria that are needed to evaluate management assertions regarding sustainability are described. Furthermore, verification procedures that can be used and the content and design of a conclusion on a sustainabilty audit are described. It can be concluded that the verification of sustainability reports is a very challenging assurance service for financial auditors. Academics should be challenged as well, because of the need for further research in this area.