INTRODUCTION TO THE WITS ONLINE CVO PROGRAMME:

At a time when we are faced with the challenges of social inequality, resource constraints, climate change and, most recently, the effects of COVID-19, what the world needs is an urgent shift from short-term finance centric business models to stakeholder inclusivity, environmental responsibility and long-term sustainability. It is with this in mind that Professor Mervyn King, widely regarded as one of the fathers of corporate governance, is calling for the role of the Chief Financial Officer to become the Chief Value Officer (CVO) instead.

According to Professor King: “The CVO role will ensure that all relevant aspects of value creation and destruction are accounted for and communicated to boards, management, and external stakeholders”.

However, this is easier said than done.

Accountants and financiers all well versed in the debits and credits of profit making. But understanding, internalising and applying the principles of integrated thinking and sustainable development are more challenging.

It is with this context that Wits University, in partnership with SAICA, decided to create a series of short courses dealing with the role and function of the CVO aimed specifically at accountants.

 

CVO COURSE #3: SUSTAINABILITY ASSURANCE

As business continues to face social, economic and governance challenges, the level of interest in sustainable value creation is increasing. Stakeholders are demanding more accountability from business and reassurances that information provided in sustainability and integrated reports is credible.

From a company’s perspective, the pressure to have sustainability-related information assured can be immense. Organisations allow market trends to guide their decisions on what and how to have their reports assured rather than being informed by the need to use assurance as part of the broader value creation process. The result is that they are ill-prepared for assurance and cannot maximise the benefits of having their reporting, systems and processes subject to third party verification.

With this in mind, Wits University in partnership with SAICA is pleased to launch the third short course in the CVO programme entitled “Sustainability Assurance”. While the course is focussed on sustainability assurance, which is an emerging area of reporting and governance, the principles of assurance covered in this course will apply equally to all types of assurance aimed at integrated reporting, environmental, social and governance reporting, extended external reporting and combined assurance considerations. The course will provide an understanding of how emerging forms of assurance (and related concepts) are being applied in practice. This understanding will further contribute to the skillset of Chief Value Officer (CVO) required for bolstering economic, environmental, and social performance and the related accountability for organisations.

COURSE #3 OUTCOMES:

On successful completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • explain the concept of assurance in the sustainability and broader integrated reporting context;
  • identify, describe and contextualise the drivers of assurance;
  • explain important features of assurance practice as outlined in different assurance frameworks and the implications of these on the assurance process;
  • evaluate and analyse multiple perspectives on what should be assured and develop meaningful assurance criteria;
  • recognise the building blocks for organisations to be “assurance ready”, including the required reporting frameworks, policies, systems and controls and the scope of monitoring by those charged with an organisation’s governance; and
  • explain the concept of combined assurance and other approaches to traditional forms of assurance.

HOW ARE THESE TOPICS ADDRESSED WITHIN THIS COURSE?

The “Sustainability Assurance” CVO short course consists of five units:

The first unit introduces participants to the underlying concepts of sustainability assurance (and non-financial assurance more broadly). The determinants and consequences of assurance will be examined, including the consideration of important role players in the assurance process. The demands for assurance of sustainability and integrated reporting information will be explored. Participants will be required to consider their organisations and how the skills and competencies of a CVO can contribute to a well-formulated assurance approach for economic, environmental and social performance information.

In the second and third units, participants focus on the elements of an assurance framework, looking at the different assurance frameworks currently being applied and their respective outputs. Pre-conditions for assurance engagements and the determination of materiality are explored. Participants will consider the different aspects of reporting and identify information which should be subject to assurance. An interpretative assurance model is introduced which deals with how assurance over systems, controls, processes, data and disclosures are co-ordinated to inform decision-making and ensure sustainable value creation.

The focus in the fourth unit is on examining the building blocks for an organisation to be “assurance-ready”. The unit deals with assurance-related reporting frameworks, policies and procedures, systems and controls, and related governance considerations.

The fifth unit deals with combined assurance or the use of a combination of internal and external sources of assurance to support the value-creation process. Developments in and future of sustainability and broader non-financial assurance are discussed.

HOW IS THIS COURSE STRUCTURED?

This online course follows a traditional business school approach. It is designed to provide participants with a conceptual and theoretical appreciation of assurance in the context of sustainability, integrated or other forms of ‘non-financial’ reporting. Participants will be exposed to a mix of technical and professional publications, complemented by relevant academic readings and presentations by the academic staff and other industry experts.

Each unit comprises prescribed readings and video content. Additional resources are provided to aid the learning process. These include research articles, extracts from websites and short commentaries.

Throughout each unit, participants are prompted to reflect on key issues and important learning outcomes. Optional “knowledge checks” are provided. For participants registering for the course by competency, assignments dealing with the content covered in each of the course’s units must be completed and passed.

The units are designed to run online with some flexibility to work through prescribed material. Live seminars form a key part of the course. They offer an opportunity to debate points, engage directly with experts and network with peers. These sessions will be hosted at the Wits Business School or on the DigitalCampus platform.

WHAT IS THE EXPECTED DURATION OF THIS COURSE?

The course duration is eight (8) weeks from the date of registration to completion.

For those who enroll ‘by competence’, prescribed assessments must be completed. The pass mark is 50%. Participants will be awarded a certificate of competence upon successful completion of the course. For participants who prefer not to write assignments, the course can be completed ‘by attendance’. A certificate of attendance is awarded upon the completion of the requisite number of hours on the course.

ADMISSION REQUIREMENT:

The course is offered to all Chartered Accountants [CAs(SA)] who are registered and in good standing with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). Admission requirements for future enrolments will be communicated in due course.

Course fee for those who enrol for the certificate of competence

  • Cost for a SAICA registered CA(SA): R20 000 (excl. VAT)
  • Early bird registrations for individual CAs(SA): R 18 400 (excl. VAT) if you register and pay before 27 September 2021.
  • Students who successfully completed the Integrated Thinking Course and the Corporate Governance in SA Course will be eligible for a 15% discount on this course and will pay R 17 000 (excl VAT)
  • Discount price for companies* registering +5 employees are eligible for a 15% discount and will pay R17 000 per employee.
* Note company discounts only apply to corporates who either pay payment or send a purchase order confirming their commitment to pay within 30 days of date of invoice.

Course fee for those who enrol for the certificate of attendance 

  • Cost for a SAICA registered CA(SA): R15 000 (excl. VAT)
  • Early bird registrations for individual CAs(SA): R 13 800 (excl. VAT) if you register and pay before 27 September 2021.
  • Students who successfully completed the Integrated Thinking Course will be eligible for a 15% discount on this course and will pay R 12 750 (excl VAT)
  • Discount price for companies* registering +5 employees are eligible for a 15% discount and will pay R12 750 per employee.
* Note company discounts only apply to corporates who either pay payment or send a purchase order confirming their commitment to pay within 30 days of date of invoice.

Duration: The course is run over an 8-week period.

Course intake: The course starts on 4 October 2021 – further intakes TBC depending on interest (see future course dates below).

HOW TO APPLY:

Apply here to enrol in the certificate of competence

Apply here to enrol in the certificate of attendance

Please direct all technical course enquiries to the WITS course co-ordinator: yvette.lange@wits.ac.za

Please direct all registration enquires to DigitalCampus:  info@digitalcampus.co.za

 

ABOUT THE CVO PROGRAMME:

The CVO Programme, which consists of three short courses, is part of a continuing research-driven enquiry into integrated reporting, integrated thinking and sustainable development being undertaken by the Wits School of Accountancy.

The first short course is an integrated thinking themed course which examines integrated thinking and value creation in a practical context with a focus on how the CVO, either in a dedicated role or in some other executive capacity, could be expected to oversee the management of multiple types of capital.

The second short course is a governance themed course which covers outcomes-based governance and its application to emerging issues such as COVID and climate change. The course considers the drivers and consequences of good governance and how an outcomes-based approach to governance is essential for effective multi-capital management, stakeholder engagement and long-term value creation.

The final short course in the CVO programme is an assurance themed course which deals with, inter alia, the nature and emergence of combined assurance, the role of external assurors in the preparation of integrated reports and the relevance of assurance for the broader value creation.

The short courses can be attended consecutively or independently of each other. Participants have the option to complete either one, two or all three of the courses.

In the medium-term, these three short courses forming the Chief Value Officer curriculum will lead to Chief Value Officer credentials in the form of a post graduate diploma from Wits and a possible designation from SAICA.

FUTURE COURSE DATES:

Course 1 – Integrated Thinking and Value Creation (3rd intake): 14 February 2022 and 30 May 2022

Course 2 – Corporate Governance in South Africa (2nd intake): 2 May 2022 and 15 August 2022

Course 3 (1st intake): 4 October 2021 and 18 July 2022