Integrated Reporting and the independence debate

3 October, 2014

Over the last few weeks, and particularly the last weekend, the eyes of the world have been on Scotland – a country of just over 5 million people.  Today we are absorbing the result of the historic referendum campaign and the decision of the Scottish people to reject independence and remain part of the United Kingdom.

And it is worth remembering, for those not familiar with its history, that Scotland is a country of great innovation and inventiveness.  There is a great story about a football fan, travelling on the underground several years ago from central London to Wembley football stadium for the then annual match between England and Scotland.  All of a sudden, the tartan-clad Scotland supporter shouted out: “Penicillin”.  There were worried looks from his fellow passengers in the packed carriage.  Did he need medical help?  Then again, he shouted “Penicillin!”  Then immediately afterwards, he shouted, “Chloroform”, to increasingly startled looks.  He then continued, “Penicillin, chloroform, the steam engine, tarmacadam, the telephone, the television.  Of course Scotland is the greatest country on earth!”

We have heard many of these cries of patriotism in the last months of the referendum campaign.

As a Brit, I have taken a particular interest in this debate.  But what is interesting is that as I have travelled to different countries over the last few months, I have noticed how the debate has piqued interest, from as far away as South Africa, Japan and India, where people have been fascinated by the discussion.  Because, ultimately, whoever you are, wherever you are from, identity and nationhood matter.  So I thought I would share with you what I think of the outcome as we absorb the result this week.  And I think it relates meaningfully to our world of <IR>.

In our world of integrated reporting, we speak of “connectivity” as a core principle that should be reflected in business practice.  The inter-relationship between different forms of capital, and collaboration, are central to our belief about the future of business and our capital markets.  The IMF and World Economic Forum talk about the great trends happening in our world today – and it strikes me that interdependence, rather than independence, is what will make countries, economies and businesses stronger in the years ahead.

I believe we should seize on these ideals to benefit from the concept of “shared value”, developed and advocated by Professor Michael Porter.  Is this not the way forward as we think about our world in this century?

And was it not President John F Kennedy who had such a forward looking vision in his American Independence Day speech of 1962, when he proposed a new global declaration of interdependence.  It is worth remembering his words, for they are so prescient today: “Today Americans must learn to think intercontinentally.  Acting alone by ourselves [America] cannot establish justice around the world.  We cannot ensure America’s domestic tranquillity; provide for its common defence; or promote its general welfare; or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity.  But joined with other free nations we can do all this and more”.
Isn’t this one of the most articulate arguments for thinking differently about our world and how we make decisions, reflecting what Martin Luther King called, “the inescapable web of mutuality”?

We have so much to learn from history in developing our ideas today to shape the future of business and the world economy.