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Social network influences on integrated reporting adoption and implementation – a UK perspective

Fiona Robertson (Department of Accounting and Finance, Faculty of Business and Law, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Article publication date: 7 May 2021



This paper aims to investigate social influences on the UK integrated reporting (<IR>) adoption and implementation.


The study was based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with 36 senior executives actively involved in <IR> within 17 organisations.


Main social influences on adoption externally were reported design consultants and to a lesser extent, external auditors, primarily to legitimise <IR>. Internal influences were board support for <IR>, with the main driver being the mind-set of the CFO/Chairman to drive sustainability throughout the organisation or to regain trust in society. Social influences aiding further diffusion at the implementation stage came from three external sources: business networks; report design consultants; and external auditors. Internal influences in driving <IR> diffusion within organisations were identified in five functional areas, with finance, sustainability and communications functions exerting the greatest external influence on the diffusion of <IR>.

Research limitations/implications

This research study was limited by the small sample of organisations that participated, although significant efforts were made to ensure that the sample incorporated the majority of early adopter UK organisations who demonstrated best practice in <IR>. Therefore, the findings are specific to the research context and do not represent statistical generalisations.

Practical implications

Empirical evidence identifying social influences from a practitioner perspective provides recommendations as to how <IR> may be further diffused in the future.

Social implications

<IR> creates the potential to significantly improve the long-term health of corporations and the external environment they impact through consideration of the three indivisible and integrated dimensions of sustainable development, the economy, society and the environment and can contribute to a sustainable society by providing the opportunity for organisations to respond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This highlights the significance of the research, which aims to gain insights into <IR> social influences which can assist in the adoption and implementation of <IR>.


This is the first comprehensive study of social influences on the <IR> adoption and implementation practices in the UK. It incorporates recommendations to improve the likelihood of subsequent adoption and diffusion of <IR> based on the findings.



Robertson, F. (2021), "Social network influences on integrated reporting adoption and implementation – a UK perspective", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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