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“Integrated reporting is like God: no one has met Him, but everybody talks about Him”: The power of myths in the adoption of management innovations

Delphine Gibassier (Toulouse Business School, University of Toulouse, Toulouse, France)
Michelle Rodrigue (School of Accounting, Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada)
Diane-Laure Arjaliès (Ivey Business School, Western University, London, Canada)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 13 June 2018

Issue publication date: 19 June 2018




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process through which an International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) pilot company adopted “integrated reporting” (IR), a management innovation that merges financial and non-financial reporting.


A seven-year longitudinal ethnographic study based on semi-structured interviews, observations, and documentary evidence is used to analyze this multinational company’s IR adoption process from its decision to become an IIRC pilot organization to the publication of its first integrated report.


Findings demonstrate that the company envisioned IR as a “rational myth” (Hatchuel, 1998; Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). This conceptualization acted as a springboard for IR adoption, with the mythical dimension residing in the promise that IR had the potential to portray global performance in light of the company’s own foundational myth. The company challenged the vision of IR suggested by the IIRC to stay true to its conceptualization of IR and eventually chose to implement its own version of an integrated report.


The study enriches previous research on IR and management innovations by showing how important it is for organizations to acknowledge the mythical dimension of the management innovations they pursue to support their adoption processes. These findings, suggest that myths can play a productive role in transforming business (reporting) practices. Some transition conditions that make this transformation possible are identified and the implications of these results for the future of IR, sustainability, and accounting more broadly are discussed.



This paper forms part of a special section “Case study insights from the implementation of integrated reporting”.

The authors gratefully acknowledge funding received from the ACCA and the IMA Foundation. The authors thank the guest editors for their guidance and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. Comments from Cornelia Beck, Yves Gendron, Kathleen Herbohn, Carlos Larrinaga, Matias Laine, Helen Tregidga, Adrian Zicari, and participants at the 2014 CSEAR Conference in St-Andrews, the 2015 CSEAR France Conference, the 2015 European Management Control Symposium, the 2016 APIRA Conference and a research seminar at Auckland University of Technology in May 2016 are also greatly appreciated in developing the manuscript.


Gibassier, D., Rodrigue, M. and Arjaliès, D.-L. (2018), "“Integrated reporting is like God: no one has met Him, but everybody talks about Him”: The power of myths in the adoption of management innovations", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31 No. 5, pp. 1349-1380.



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