Theoretical insights on integrated reporting

Mark Anthony Camilleri (Department of Corporate Communication, Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta) (Business School, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Publication date: 1 October 2018

Abstract

Purpose

Corporations and large entities are increasingly disclosing material information on their financial and non-financial capitals in integrated reports (IR). The rationale behind their IR is to improve their legitimacy with institutions and stakeholders, as they are expected to communicate on all aspects of their value-creating activities, business models and strategic priorities. In this light, the purpose of this paper is to trace the theoretical underpinnings that have led to the organizations’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures, and explain the purpose of integrated thinking and reporting.

Design/methodology/approach

Following a review of relevant theories in business and society literature, this contribution examines the latest developments in corporate communication. This research explores the GRI’s latest Sustainability Reporting Standards as it sheds light on IIRC’s <IR> framework. Afterwards, it investigates the costs and benefits of using IR as a vehicle for the corporate disclosures on financial and non-financial performance.

Findings

This contribution sheds light on the latest developments that have led to the emergence of the organizations’ integrated thinking and reporting as they include financial and non-financial capitals in their annual disclosures. The findings suggest that the investors and the other financial stakeholders remain the key stakeholders of many organizations; it explains that they still represent the primary recipients of the corporate reports. However, the integrated disclosures are also helping practitioners to improve their organizational stewardship and to reinforce their legitimacy with institutions and other stakeholders in society, as they embed ESG information in their IR.

Research limitations/implications

IIRC’s <IR> framework has its inherent limitations that are duly pointed out in this paper. However, despite its weaknesses, this contribution maintains that its guided principles and content elements could support those organizations that may be willing to voluntarily disclose their non-financial performance in their corporate reports.

Practical implications

This paper has discussed about the inherent limitations of the accounting, reporting and auditing of the organizations’ integrated disclosures. It pointed out that the practitioners may risk focusing their attention on the form of their reports, rather than on the content of their IR. Moreover, this contribution implies that the report preparers (and their stakeholders) would benefit if their IR is scrutinized and assured by independent, externally recognized audit firms.

Originality/value

This contribution has addressed a gap in academic literature along two lines of investigation. First, it linked key theoretical underpinnings on the agency, stewardship, institutional and legitimacy theories, with the latest developments in corporate communication. Second, it critically evaluated the regulatory instruments, including: GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Standards and the <IR> framework, among others; as these institutions are supporting organizations in their integrated thinking and reporting.

Keywords

Citation

Camilleri, M. (2018), "Theoretical insights on integrated reporting", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 567-581. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-01-2018-0016

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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