Non-Financial Disclosure and Integrated Reporting: Practices and Critical Issues: Volume 34

Cover of Non-Financial Disclosure and Integrated Reporting: Practices and Critical Issues

Table of contents

(11 chapters)

Part I: Key Issues and Practices in Non-Financial Performance Measurement


Despite all the attempts developed so far to measure corporate social performance in the last decades, a standard metric for it is still missing. In this work, the author tries to understand why is this the case. To do so, the author has reviewed 69 relevant metrics developed in the literature since the 1970s until today, covering approaches based on social, reputational, and environmental ratings, as well as several others constructed ad hoc by reputated scholars. The author analyzes each of them through a double optics, checking if they meet the minimum requirements to be considered standard and truly social. The research reveals that the main factor that prevents such a standard is the lack of truly social orientation of the existing metrics.


Based on a single and innovative case study (Siggelkow, 2007; Yin, 2014), this research aims to identify the main issues of non-financial reporting. They are related to:

the complexity of the corporate social responsibility (Alcouffe, Berland, Dreveton, & Essid, 2010; Ancori, 2008; Antheaume, 2007; Brichard, 1996; Buritt, 2004; Chan, 2005; Gray & Bebbington, 2001; Herborn, 2005; Savall & Zardet, 2013; Vatn, 2009);

the legislator’s and stakeholders’ expectations (Ancori, 2005; Batifoulier, 2001; Caillaud & Tirole, 2007; Lewis, 1969); and

the company’s expectations (Argyris & Schön, 1978; Chiapello & Gilbert, 2013; David 1998; Grimand, 2012; Moisdon, 1997; Senge, 1992; Wood, 1991).

Symmetrically, it reveals possible pitfalls. Through the study of the way the Rémy Cointreau Group developed its reporting tool, the authors analyze how a company can take the opportunity of a legal obligation to deploy a strategy of non-financial reporting that comes to support and structure a responsible approach. Of course, these results are only replicable under certain conditions related to this singular case.


Public-interest entities – among which are listed companies – are obliged to publish nonfinancial disclosure in some countries and regions. The European Commission established mandatory nonfinancial disclosure by Directive 2014/95/EU. While a large body of literature was developed on sustainability reporting quality (SRQ) in voluntary context, evidence about the effect of mandatory nonfinancial disclosure on SRQ is controversial and previous experiences worldwide did not make clear if obligatoriness improves SRQ. This chapter aims to bridge the gap of empirical evidence about this phenomenon in European countries, focusing on first implementation of new legislation by Italian and German companies. The research has an explorative character and it adopts content analysis methods performed on sustainability reporting practices of companies listed in FTSE-MIB and DAX 30. The analysis aims to understand if obligatoriness affects SRQ, causes some changes in reporting practices such as harmonizing Italian and German ones by performing a cross-country comparison. The findings suggest that obligatoriness improves reporting quality and, above all, it fills the gap between different countries by fostering the adoption of international guidelines and the consequent introduction of some content, such as materiality analysis and quantitative measures of social and environmental performance.

Part II: Key Issues and Practices in Integrated Reporting


The study aims to contribute to the debate on how to identify and manage an organization’s sustainability-related resources and processes by understanding the impact of business activities on the environment and evaluating actions to ameliorate their impacts. Within this debate, and specifically taking into consideration the opportunity to support circular economy actions and initiatives, the study focuses on integrated reporting (IR) practices. In detail, this study advocates the joint use of IR principles with the dynamic resource-based view (DRBV) of the firm, adopting their representation of resources and impact of the business activities to identify environmental friendly “hot spots” in organizations. The framework is illustrated through two exploratory case studies.


There are still many different theoretical approaches and practical interpretations about what an integrated report is. Starting from this premise, the overall purpose of this chapter is to critically analyze the relationship between integrated reporting (IR) and social/sustainability disclosure. Indeed, although some scholars considered IR as a tool to improve the sustainability approach of the companies allowing to disclose more relevant social information, others are more critical about the potentiality of IR to improve social disclosure. Therefore, the general research question is: Is there a natural link between IR and social disclosure (true love) or is the IR a practice to “normalize” the social disclosure and accounting (forced marriage)?

In the attempt to provide a preliminary answer to the research question, the chapter analyzes what is the approach of three categories: (1) academics; (2) soft-regulators; and (3) companies. From the methodological point of view, a mixed method of analysis has been adopted.

From the analysis of the three different points of view, IR can be considered as a “contested concept” because of the heterogeneous and sometimes conflicting interpretations and implementation that are done on this type of report. This leads to relevant theoretical and practical implications.


Voluntary non-financial reporting aims at fairly reporting a firm’s non-financial performance. In particular, integrated reporting (IR) displays in a single report the contribution of different forms of capital to the firm’s value creation. Drawing on both legitimacy and voluntary disclosure theory, the main purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance affects the content and semantic properties of intellectual capital disclosure (ICD) found in IRs.

To test theoretical hypotheses, content and tone analysis is used to assess the disclosure strategy associated with ICD, whereas a regression analysis tests the variation in semantic properties of ICD according to firms’ ESG performance. A total of 79 reports by European listed firms from 2011 to 2016 were downloaded via the Integrated Reporting Emerging Practice Examples Database and analyzed.

Results show that ESG performance contributing more to optimistic ICD tone is governance, although in mixed ways. Integrating vision and strategy positively contributes to ICD tone, whereas information on poor treatment of shareholders’ rights tends to be manipulated and associated with an optimistic tone of the ICD. Moreover, eco-efficient product innovation and healthy and safe job conditions play a positive role in enhancing optimistic ICD tone.

This chapter contributes to the current literature on voluntary disclosure by introducing new evidence on the disclosure strategy in IR. By analyzing the effect of the single dimensions of ESG performance on ICD tone, this study extends respectively ESG literature.


Despite the expected benefits to stakeholders, as well as the number of contributes aiming at identifying and proposing best practices on the integrated reporting (IR) adoption, it seems that the IR struggles to be diffused in companies. Several are the reasons explaining this evidence. It could mainly be the consequence of some critical issues underlying IR implementation, such as difficulties in the complete application of the IR framework.

Strictly related to this last aspect is the topic of the IR quality that recently has begun to gain interest both in the literature and in the empirical research. Particularly, the issues of IR quality and its determinants now appear to be more important than the IR quantity.

Starting from these premises, this chapter aims to identify the determinants of IR quality. The authors have identified main drivers of IR quality, considering previous studies on voluntary disclosure and in particular on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability disclosure while with reference to the quality assessment of IR, the authors have used the Integrated Reporting Scoreboard, recently proposed in the literature.

After developing the research hypothesis, an empirical analysis has been carried out on a sample of IRs issued by 55 companies in a three-year period.

The main research results highlight, on the one hand, that the main determinants of IR quality are the country where the company operates, in particular European ones and mandatory IR countries; on the other hand, industry and firm’s size don’t seem to have a positive impact on IR quality.

Cover of Non-Financial Disclosure and Integrated Reporting: Practices and Critical Issues
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Studies in Managerial and Financial Accounting
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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