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Organisational benefits and implementation challenges of mandatory integrated reporting: Perspectives of senior executives at South African listed companies

Maxi Steyn (Department of Management Accounting, University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 28 October 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to summarise the findings of the perceptions of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and senior executives of South African listed companies on the perceived benefits and implementation challenges as a result of implementing integrated reporting (IR) requirements, as well as motives for preparing an integrated report; it is performed two years into the South African IR regime,. South African-listed companies are among the first in the world to be subject to compliance with IR requirements in terms of stock exchange listing requirements. IR, as a novel and evolutionary step in corporate reporting, along with the influence that integrated thinking and IR principles will have on companies, has been the subject of global debate in recent years.

Design/methodology/approach

The research instrument used in the study comprised a self-administered Web-based survey aimed at CEOs and CFOs of all South African listed companies. The survey was validated by a pre-trail and data analysed by a statistician to ensure reliability.

Findings

The study revealed that listed companies, in a mandated regulatory regime implemented in a short period with reference to a highly prescriptive draft framework, attach value to the IR process primarily from the perspective of their corporate reputation, investor needs and stakeholder engagement and relations. This strengthens the business case for voluntary IR as a reporting regime. Advancement of corporate reputation appears to be a key motive to compile an integrated report, secondary to compliance as a primary motive. This indicates the perceived corporate legitimising effect of producing an integrated report. Furthermore, managers are more motivated by the legitimising aspect of advancing corporate reputation and stakeholder needs in compiling the integrated report than satisfying investor needs. This results in a disconnect between the perceived audience of the report by managers and the intended audience of the report as providers of capital as envisioned by the IIRC, which should be a matter for future consideration. Better resource allocation decisions and cost reductions are not indicated as an outcome of IR in the study. Furthermore, substantial changes to management information systems, with associated costs, would be required by companies to satisfy the requirements of the report content. The study revealed that the anticipated benefit of a company reconsidering its business model and encouraging sustainable product development is not perceived to be a material outcome in companies that implement IR, nor is assessing economic value creation and strategy considered a key motive for companies to compile an integrated report.

Research limitations/implications

Further validation of the survey by statistical methods in addition to the pre-trial of the survey was not considered viable by the statistician in view of the limited amount of data. This may be viewed as a potential limitation of the study. Statistical analysis must also be interpreted with caution given the limited amount of data available for analysis. Other limitations include the fact that certain industries are too heavily represented instead of there being a mix of industries representing the entire market listed on the JSE, and that a substantial proportion of the companies are large listed companies and Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Constituents. As a result, the results may not be representative of the overall market listed on the JSE.

Practical implications

Managers are more motivated by the legitimising aspect of advancing corporate reputation and stakeholder needs in compiling the integrated report than satisfying investor needs, while the intended audience of the report in the framework is the providers of financial capital. This needs to be considered in the future development of regulations and frameworks. Furthermore, policymakers and regulators should exercise caution in the early stages of IR, when there is still a lack of evidence to support significant short-term changes in reconsidering the business model as well as sustainable product development that could be convincingly attributed to mandatory IR. It is, therefore, critical that policymakers, government and regulators strive towards creating a wider enabling environment to advance sustainable product development and sustainable business models. This can include establishing incentives to encourage the development of sustainable products, or other incentives that serve to align business objectives with national and global objectives and frameworks. Industry bodies can play a significant role in developing universal industry standards in this regard. Consideration should further be given to implementing regulatory mechanisms for advancing and possibly enforcing responsible investment practices as a measure to fully engage business in the critical shift towards sustainable business practices.

Originality/value

The study is significant from a global perspective because IR and integrated thinking form a new and globally developing concept and the potential benefits and expected outcomes from an organisational perspective thereof for companies are currently the subject of continued global debate. This study aims to provide valuable insights into and understanding of the perceived organisational benefits of implementing IR requirements, as well as serves to highlight the challenge areas experienced in South African companies by compliance with IR requirements. The study also contributes towards the debate of motives of managers for producing an integrated report and how this will affect future directions.

Keywords

Citation

Steyn, M. (2014), "Organisational benefits and implementation challenges of mandatory integrated reporting: Perspectives of senior executives at South African listed companies", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 476-503. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-11-2013-0052

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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