This paper aims to explore the initial reactions of the South African institutional investment community to the first sets of integrated reports being prepared by companies listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. The research highlights a shift in attitude towards ESG and integrated reporting, initial views on the first sets of integrated reports and obstacles to the preparation of high-quality reports. The study also includes recommendations for preparers.
Detailed interviews are carried out with 20 experts from the South African institutional investment industry. Interpretive thematic analysis is used to identify themes and principles and construct an initial assessment of the investors’ views on South African integrated reporting.
The new reporting framework is seen as an improvement on the traditional annual report of South African listed companies. In general, there is more emphasis on non-financial measures and evidence of an effort to integrate financial and environmental, social and governance metrics to provide a better understanding of organisational sustainability. The length of reports, repetition and a check box approach to reporting does, however, detract from the usefulness of the reports and undermine the development of an integrated thinking ethos.
The study is limited to exploring the views of only a single group of stakeholders at one point in time. The reader’s attention is also drawn to the fact that the study was carried out before the International Integrated Reporting Council’s framework for integrated reporting was applied by South African preparers. Nevertheless, its interpretive style allows identification of challenges to effective integrated reporting.
This paper is the first to examine the views of institutional investors and analysts on South African integrated reports. It makes an important contribution to the academic literature by adding to the limited body of research on integrated reporting and corporate governance in an African setting. The study is also important for practitioners seeking to improve the quality of their integrated reports and for academics wanting to understand the problems and possible strategies for addressing these.
The authors are immensely grateful to ACCA for funding this research and would like to acknowledge the support of Rachel Jackson (Head of Sustainability, ACCA) and Paul Moxey (Head of Corporate Governance and Risk Management, ACCA). Thanks also to comments from delegates attending a preliminary presentation of these findings at the 21st CSEAR conference in St Andrews, September 2013, especially Charles Cho and Rob Gray. The authors would like to thank Lelys Maddock for her invaluable editorial services. Last, our thanks also to the interviewee participants without whose support this research would have been impossible.
Atkins, J. and Maroun, W. (2015), "Integrated reporting in South Africa in 2012: Perspectives from South African institutional investors", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 197-221. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-07-2014-0047Download as .RIS
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