“Business leaders must embrace the broader benefits of integrated thinking”

Companies reporting under the International Integrated Reporting (<IR>) Framework have, made “striking progress” in quality over the last year but there’s scope for businesses to reap more benefits by embedding integrated thinking into internal decision-making processes, according to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

InInsights into integrated reporting 2.0, ACCA worked for the second year running with the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) to review a number of corporate reports, and then to provide practical insights for improvement and development.

“There has been a lot of progress in the quality of integrated reporting since last year’s review (Insights into integrated reporting 2016),” said Yen-pei Chen, subject matter expert – integrated reporting at ACCA.

“We are seeing increasing use of consistent performance measures from year to year, emerging bases for comparison between organisations, and a reduction in the average length of reports.”

However, the report also notes that new challenges have come to light, including: linking strategy through to the way the business uses and affects key resources; the description of the board’s role in enabling value creation; discussions about the organisation’s outlook; and the application of materiality.

“Although the <IR> Framework addresses reporting practice, for many organisations integrated reporting has driven wider organisational changes: from redefining business models, to changing strategic planning processes and updating internal performance targets,” added Chen.

“There is a real opportunity for business leaders to use the process of integrated reporting as a means of developing better- informed leadership and more coherent governance. A well-prepared integrated report crystallises thinking about the business’ key value drivers: investors like to see this information, but this insight also helps business leaders – including CEOs and CFOs – to identify and act on risks and opportunities.”

The report also encourages business leaders to be ‘active advocates’ in engaging and educating the whole organisation and stakeholders throughout the integrated reporting process.

Richard Howitt, CEO, IIRC said: “At the heart of the integrated reporting movement is a desire to put purpose back into reporting. To make sure it is no longer a case of ticking off various metrics or requirements, but about driving real communication and understanding with stakeholders.

“Those in the IIRC’s <IR> Network are at the forefront of this, innovating year on year to improve their reporting, setting an example to others. I am delighted that this report demonstrates real progress in a range of areas including conciseness and quality of data.

“There is still work to be done, but I urge those at the beginning of their integrated reporting journey to look through this report to gain inspiration for their own reporting. I would like to add my thanks to ACCA for all they do to encourage better reporting, including critiquing the reports of <IR> Network participants in partnership with the IIRC.”