Evidence that the ‘momentum phase’ is taking off

Posted
5 August, 2019

Academics Delphine Gibassier (Audencia Business School), Carol Adams (Durham University Business School and Swinburne Business School) and Tiphaine Jerome (University of Grenobles Alpes) write about the recent research they have undertaken into the uptake of integrated reporting globally. 

As the IIRC’s ‘momentum phase’ gets underway, the French Autorité des Normes Comptables (ANC, French Accounting Standardization Setter) commissioned us to undertake new research into the uptake of integrated reporting. The research reveals that integrated reporting has matured into fast-paced diffusion around the world.

We sought answers to the questions:

  • Where and by whom has integrated reporting been adopted?
  • To what extent has the International <IR> Framework been followed (‘depth’ of adoption)?
  • How are organizations reporting on the capitals?
  • Are integrated reporters using the GRI Standards too?

We developed a worldwide database of integrated reports published in 2017 drawing on several recognized sources of data (notably GRI, the IIRC and Black Sun Examples Database, and the Corporate Register database of integrated reporting reports).

Geographical dispersion

We found that 21 countries account for more than 85% of known reporters. The top two countries are South Africa and Japan which together account for 43% of reports identified. But there was also a high concentration of integrated reporters in Asia with 25 reports from Sri Lanka and a total of 28 from India, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Taiwan combined.

In contrast, we found that more developed countries are lagging.  For example, in Canada and Germany, there were only about 20 companies each doing integrated reporting and only 25 in the US, (29 in 2019 according to the US IR community website).

Industry adoption

Industries, such as banking, insurance, wholesale and retail where “intangibles” (such as intellectual or social and relationship capitals) are particularly important are more inclined to prepare integrated reports. The chemicals/rubber/plastics industry is also one of the most prolific integrated reporters and includes leaders like Akzo Nobel who developed integrated reports before the International <IR> Framework was published.

Size

Interestingly, the number of companies with more than 5,000 employees represents only 58% of those preparing integrated reports with 28% from medium-sized enterprises and 14% from small enterprises.

Link between integrated reporting and GRI users

A little over half of the reports noted that they use GRI Standards in preparing their integrated reports, bringing into question the degree to which they are achieving integration of sustainability issues.

Depth of adoption

We used the title of the report and the extent of coverage of the <IR> Framework as measures of the “depth” of adoption of integrated reporting.

While only 40% of reports examined are titled ‘integrated report’, ‘integrated annual report’ or ‘annual integrated report’ the 50% titled ‘annual report’ adopted <IR> Framework content elements.  The 9% of reports from Brazil published integrated reports under the banner of sustainability reports.

The majority (61%) of companies do not mention the International <IR> Framework explicitly and for these the depth of integration is relatively low. For these, the most common element of the International <IR> Framework adopted was the business model, often through a how “we create value” type of visual.  Those reports explicitly referencing the International <IR> Framework (39% of the sample), displayed a relatively high level of adoption with many elements of the Framework present.