Integrated Reporting has been endorsed by the most serious policymakers, businesses and investors in the world. Mark Carney, Chairman of the Financial Stability Board, sees it as a vital way of extending the conversation about value creation beyond financial capital so that business is accountable for social and other sources of value. Over 1,600 companies across 62 capital markets are today adopting Integrated Reporting, including some of the most iconic organizations in the world – Tata Steel, Unilever, Mitsubishi Corporation and The World Bank. The largest equity investor in the world, BlackRock, serves on the IIRC's global Council.
Integrated Reporting is about breaking out of the traditional box-ticking mindset – it is about understanding value creation and being accountable for performance across multiple capitals and time horizons. One of the core principles of Integrated Reporting is the connectivity of information. This is impacting corporate governance. There is now a large body of research evidence which shows that Integrated Reporting by businesses leads to higher share price performance, a lower cost of capital and longer term investment.
The IIRC undertakes our own internal study of a representative cross-section of integrated reports, our partners ACCA undertake their own Report Critique project annually in partnership with us and we track the growth of integrated reporting internationally through our partnership with www.corporateregister.com. Each of these strands shows integrated reporting is growing across the globe – in quantity and quality.
Just this month we published the final report from a worldwide consultation on the implementation of the international integrated reporting framework, which showed that business focus has moved from issues of awareness and acceptance of integrated reporting three years ago, to questions of practical implementation today.
Take German technology giant SAP. By valuing its human capital, it is able to better at managing recruitment and retention of staff, driving morale, productivity and financial performance. SAP is one of many global companies reporting on its human capital – just look at the reports of United Utilities in the UK which produces a human capital report specifically as part of its Integrated Reporting, as well as the likes of The Crown Estate and ARM Holdings.
The IIRC is fundamentally about changing behaviour, not just reporting, and this will take time. However, in recent years we have seen real leap forwards in the way business models are thought through and communicated, representing a new appreciation of how value is created by many business leaders around the world.
Is it true that some companies still interpret the framework as separate reporting of the six capitals, rather than genuinely integrated reporting? Yes, the IIRC would be the first to accept it does. But that number is reducing year by year, just as the overall numbers adopting integrated reporting are increasing.
Our guidance, technical programme and business networks play an active role in improving that understanding.
Your article gives us an extra opportunity to remind businesses that the <IR> Framework does not request them to report on all six capitals, but only on those genuinely material to how their organization creates value over time. Furthermore, we do not ask businesses to call them 'the capitals' so whilst there are many reports out there that look at human capital, they may not refer to it as such.
However that terminology has centred the debate not on accountancy alone, but on the desire of business leaders and investors to support long-term value creation, which is at the heart of supporting sustainable business in a fast-changing world.
Of course the practice of integrated reporting is still developing and improving. But when 85 per cent of business leaders say they have begun integrated reporting or expect to do so in the next five years, the achievements in adoption now should never be underestimated.