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Integrated thinking in the integrated reports of public sector companies. Evidence and contextual factors

Pilar Tirado-Valencia (Department of Financial Economics and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía , Córdoba, Spain)
Magdalena Cordobés-Madueño (Department of Financial Economics and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía , Córdoba, Spain)
Mercedes Ruiz-Lozano (Department of Financial Economics and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía , Córdoba, Spain)
Marta De Vicente-Lama (Department of Financial Economics and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía , Córdoba, Spain)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 22 September 2020

Issue publication date: 23 January 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to improve the understanding of integrated thinking, as it is a central concept in the integrated reporting (IR) framework that has implications for sustainability reporting, as the holistic view of integrated thinking clarifies the value creation process of organisations and facilitates the incorporation of sustainability issues into the corporate mindset. The study investigates whether there are contextual factors that may be influencing the way integrated thinking is reflected in the reports. The paper focusses on public companies because integrated thinking in this sector plays an important role in terms of sustainability reporting, as these organisations must address more complex and diverse relationships with their stakeholders.

Design/methodology/approach

The methodology is based on a content analysis of the IR reports issued by 21 public sector companies. For this analysis, this study proposed specific dimensions and variables that demonstrate this way of thinking. These allow us to develop an integrated thinking index (ITI) based on a frequency análisis. The influence of the country’s legal system, the sector of activity and the number of years of experience in IR is studied, by conducting t-test and ANOVA analyses and a correlation study.

Findings

The results demonstrate the existence of limited integrated thinking characterised by poor connectivity of information, lack of a clear link between materiality analysis and strategy and insufficient forward-looking perspective. The findings reveal that contextual and institutional factors have little influence on the levels of integrated thinking achieved.

Originality/value

The concept of integrated thinking has not been sufficiently explored to date, despite its importance in the IR conceptual framework. The study proposes specific dimensions and variables to be considered in preparing reports that exhibit this holistic way of thinking. The recommendations can help information preparers and improve the accountability and transparency of public sector companies.

Keywords

Citation

Tirado-Valencia, P., Cordobés-Madueño, M., Ruiz-Lozano, M. and De Vicente-Lama, M. (2021), "Integrated thinking in the integrated reports of public sector companies. Evidence and contextual factors", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 330-352. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-11-2019-0387

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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