The consideration of environmental matters in the audit of financial reports
There has been a dearth of research on ‘auditors and environmental matters’ since Collison (1996) and Collison and Gray (1997) completed their study on the views of UK auditors about whether auditing is changing, or should be changing, in relation to environmental concerns. It is now more than ten years since the publication of that study. Growing international concern for environmental matters has since led to the issue of International Auditing Practice Statement (IAPS) -1010: The consideration of environmental matters in the audit of financial report in 1998 and, in New Zealand, Audit Guidance Statement (AGS) -1010: The consideration of environmental matters in the audit of a financial statement in 2001. Yet, to date, there has been no examination of the impact of IAPS-1010 or AGS-1010 on either current audit practice, or the issues raised by Collison (1996) and Collison and Gray (1997). This doctoral thesis has attempted to address the environmental impact gap in the auditing research literature. In particular, it has investigated the consideration of environmental matters in the audit of financial reports in the light of AGS-1010, with a view to understanding better the following issues: (1) how auditors generally perceive the consideration of environmental matters in the audit of financial reports; (2) the common approaches and practices auditors undertake when auditing environmental matters; (3) the challenges (if any) that auditors face in the audit of environmental matters (4) the impact (if any) of AGS 1010 on current audit practice and, finally, (5) how current practices in the audit of environmental matters may be improved and further developed to meet better the espoused aims of AGS-1010. Qualitative interviews with twenty-seven senior financial audit practitioners and others in New Zealand provided the basis for the findings. The interviews were taped, transcribed and managed with the use of computerised qualitative analysis software (NViVo7). Key findings from the research interviews were as follows: (1) the introduction of AGS-1010 had little impact on current audit practice in New Zealand; (2) environmental matters were treated no differently from any other audit issues, and auditors tended to apply common, familiar audit approaches in dealing with environmental matters; (3) auditors found the effective auditing of environmental matters challenging owing to their inability to identify such matters, and their lack of relevant expert knowledge. The most significant finding from this study is that, in general, common audit practices were riddled with issues of concern. These issues point to a broader and more significant problem. It would seem that current audit practices fail to consider many potential audit issues (including environmental matters) adequately in the audit of financial reports. For auditors to be more effective in their audit practice and in protecting the public interest, not only does audit methodology need a major review, but auditors themselves need to change their attitudes and mindsets in their approach to auditing.