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Readability of integrated reports: an exploratory global study

Gerard William Stone (Centre for Sustainability Governance, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Sumit Lodhia (Centre for Sustainability Governance, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 17 July 2019

Issue publication date: 8 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

A goal of integrated reporting (IR) under the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)’s leadership is to provide clearly written, comprehensible and accessible information. In light of this objective, the purpose of this paper is to explore the readability and accessibility of integrated reports, an issue magnified by the IIRC’s continual commitment to clear and readable report language, and its intention for IR to become the corporate reporting norm.

Design/methodology/approach

In a whole text software facilitated analysis, the study utilises readability measures and supplementary measures of reader accessibility in a multi-year analysis of a large sample of global integrated reports sourced from the IIRC examples database.

Findings

The findings highlight the low readability of analysed integrated reports and indicate that readability is not improving. The supplementary measures suggest sub-optimal use of visual communication forms and overuse of structural presentation techniques which may contribute to reader accessibility of the analysed reports.

Research limitations/implications

The study extends readability analysis to an emerging corporate reporting phenomenon and its findings contribute to the growing IR literature. The study applies supplementary measures of reader accessibility which advance the methods available to assess the communication efficacy of integrated and other corporate reports.

Practical implications

The analysis of the readability and accessibility of integrated reports in the study indicates that the IIRC’s goal of clear, comprehensible and accessible reporting is not reflected by reporters’ practices. This has implications for the IIRC, reporting organisations, report readers and regulators.

Originality/value

The study represents the first large-scale analysis of the readability and accessibility of global integrated reports.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ) for funding the research study, and the invaluable guidance of the reviewers and Joint Editor Professor Lee Parker. We also thank the project’s research assistants, Amanpreet, Ani and Ary for their work and dedication.

Citation

Stone, G.W. and Lodhia, S. (2019), "Readability of integrated reports: an exploratory global study", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1532-1557. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-10-2015-2275

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited