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How has integrated reporting changed over the past four years?
There is growing interest in and urgency about improving reporting by companies among investors and other stakeholders, and therefore by regulators and lawmakers.
This report summarises the findings from reviews of the reports of 48 members of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) Business Network carried out in 2019 by ACCA in collaboration with the IIRC with the intention of creating a picture of the current state of integrated reporting <IR>. By comparing that with similar reviews done since 2016, it gives an idea of how this reporting has developed.
Regarding the characteristics of the sampled reports over those years, our main conclusions are as follows.
- The prevalence of reports labelled as ‘integrated reports’ has increased steadily, which may represent a widening recognition of the concept and the <IR> Framework.
- Reports increasingly state that they follow the principles of the <IR> Framework.
- The reports are making more reference to other standards, frameworks or reporting protocols, in addition to the <IR> Framework, which may be complementary to <IR> in providing specific metrics or dealing with particular issues. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the most frequently referenced. Two reporting systems that have been developed more recently have had an increasing take-up – the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Against the perceived trend in corporate reporting generally, integrated reports are becoming shorter or more concise over time.
- The majority of reports now identify their intended audience, which is helpful because it has a major influence over = report content. That audience is evenly split between the providers of financial capital and other stakeholders.
- External assurance over the reports, or aspects of them, has become increasingly the norm over the four years.
The overall quality of the reporting, shows a decline or, at best, no sign of progress over the four years. Companies state that they are increasingly following of the principles of the <IR> framework, however, the quality of that compliance has not progressed accordingly.
Aspects that have seen improvements, and those that have provided more of a challenge, have been fairly consistent over this four year period. Some challenges, such as the responsibility statements by management for the reports or explanation of the basis of preparation, seem capable of being remedied more easily.
It is perhaps harder, but much more fundamental, for companies to set out a clear explanation that links the strategy and performance measures together - linking the value creation over the shorter and longer term to the different capitals that an organisation may depend on. Reports could also provide better forward-looking information in the form of targets for KPIs and the outlook facing the business.
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Over the past four years
Stronger areas include:
• the description of the business and its context
• the strategy of the organisation
• the risks and their mitigation.
Less well done have been descriptions of:
• the outlook for the business
• statements of responsibility for the reports