A new report, Assurance Standards Briefing, published by AccountAbility and KMPG Sustainability in the Netherlands, concludes that:

- The two international assurance standards - AA1000AS and ISAE3000 - are not in conflict, but complementary in terms of providing a comprehensive and robust assurance process which should satisfy the needs of both management and stakeholders.
- Assurance based on the combined use of AA1000AS and ISAE3000 is likely to deliver enhanced results. This includes the approach, methodology and conclusion, communication and credibility, and so ultimately the outcome in relation to stakeholder trust and behaviour.

The report focuses on the two standards that have globally taken on particular importance in the area of sustainability assurance. The AA1000 Assurance Standard (AA1000AS), launched in March 2003 by AccountAbility; and the IAASB's International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000, which all professional accounting networks must comply with from 1 January 2005.

While these standards have advanced significant and welcome innovations in assurance, differing language, method, development pathways and institutional sources have led to confusion on the part of practitioners, organisations seeking assurance and, most of all, the ultimate users, those stakeholders that such organisations seek to assure.

AccountAbility and KPMG Sustainability BV collaborated in preparing and publishing this report to overcome this confusion, addressing the core question of whether these two global standards are consistent, complementary or conflicting, based on a detailed analysis, and in what ways they offer similar or different value in the assurance process. Based on the research, Professor George Molenkamp of KPMG Sustainability believes 'the combined use of ISAE3000 and AA1000AS would help ensure that sustainability assurance is aligned not only to the needs of our clients but also of their stakeholders'.

KPMG Sustainability and AccountAbility are currently collaborating on a second paper, which will examine the practical implications of using ISAE3000 and AA1000AS together to provide a value-adding and more robust assurance process.