Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Will IFRS save the Planet?

Good, bad or indifferent for the planet?

Well The IFRS Exorcist has gone completely crazy you think?

If you have downloaded the entire text of IFRSs from the CICA website and printed it you would have killed the major portion of a tree. Fortunately we have the computer and can read on line. It can be hard on the eyes but one can increase the font size. I do miss the ability to mark up the material in pencil though – I found it therapeutic.

I recently went to a print shop and asked how much it would cost to print the 2500+ page Pdf of IFRSs. I was told that it would cost $240 (plus tax). When I winced I was quoted $200 (plus tax). Better then to get the bound volume from London?

Well back to the point. This May I was in a Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation (CFERF) forum to discuss sustainability (this is a new term for a variety of environmental issues). If you want to know more about these environmental issues check out the CICA publication on climate change and related disclosures at

During the course of the discussion I was asked about how I thought the adoption of IFRSs would affect environmental measurements and disclosures.

It’s an interesting question and can be “answered” by a series of other questions.

1) Are there any specific Standards or IFRS projects that deal with environmental matters? (check out the IFRS Emission Trading Schemes project - courtesy of Deloitte
2) Are there any specific measurements that might be changed when IFRS is adopted? (Check out IFRIC 1 and IAS37)
3) Will there be more contingencies disclosed and "provisions" made under IFRS? (This is actually a watch item since we are awaiting an IASB project that will amend IAS 37 see the discussion in the CICA exposure draft on page 11 - there will be amendments expected in 2009 - stay tuned and check out the IASB project reports).

Yes the question is complicated and needs close examination in specific cases. Clearly all this is a very major issue for extractive companies but potentially important for others. I will come back to some of these issues in future postings and I am looking to others for input. Please send me your views.

One general comment is that we are looking at changing the whole financial reporting regime. It is an opportunity to revisit our thinking. Should there be more disclosure about environmental matters? We will certainly be revisiting the measurement of obligations in financial statements to see if they fit under IFRS. This environment issue is currently important to the public and it is bound to influence how disclosures are made in addition to any collateral disclosures under IFRS. Will the revisit under the IFRS conversion project provide further impetus to even more disclosure in this area. Perhaps this will be a "benefit" of IFRS adoption. (Remember the benefits of SOX adoption!) Time will tell?

IFRS deals with financial statement measurement and disclosure. There will be a spill over to the MD&A and other disclosures. It will be interesting to see how the adoption of IFRS affects the behavior of companies complying with IFRS. I will be following it and reporting here in this blog.

As a postscript the CSA has recently issued a Staff Notice dealing with Environmental Disclosure in MD&A. It was intended to remind issuers of their existing obligations to make disclosures about these matters but has caused a bit of a stir since it seems to require disclosure from more companies than “the usual suspects”. Perhaps the CSA will provide more information? The release can be found at

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