Integrated reporting: an exploratory study of French companies

  • Elisabeth Albertini


The increasing complexity of the business world has led to growing demands for companies to provide information about their financial performance, their corporate governance and their contribution to developing sustainability. In addition, there are increasing needs for investors to obtain more information about the value creation process since financial reporting systems account imperfectly for most of intangible assets generated by companies. In this context, this article aims to determine if integrated reporting does effectively achieve the objective of reducing the information asymmetry. To answer this research question, a qualitative content analysis was conducted of the IR disclosed by the French companies in the period of 2013–16. The study reveals that information asymmetry is not reduced since companies mention only some capitals as inputs to their value creation process while almost entirely excluding natural capital. Moreover, companies disclose only positive information mainly about their financial capital, without mentioning any destruction of capital, especially not the natural one. Finally, from our findings, signals disclosed by these companies can be classified in three categories: intent signals composed of information about social and relational capital; camouflage signals composed of information about the reduction of the pollution without mentioning the pollution itself and need signals composed of information about dividends encouraging investors to maintain their financial support.


Integrated reporting Information asymmetry Sustainability disclosure Signalling theory 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author Elisabeth Albertini declares that she has no conflict of interest.


  1. Adams, C. A. (2015). The International Integrated Reporting Council: A call to action. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 27(March), 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bagnoli, C., & Redigolo, G. (2016). Business model inIPO prospectuses: Insights from Italian Innovation Companies. Journal of Management and Governance, 20(2), 261–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baiman, S., & Verrecchia, R. (1996). The relation among capital markets, financial disclosure, production efficiency, and insider trading. Journal of Accounting Spring(1), 1–22.Google Scholar
  4. Barth, M. E. (2015). Financial accounting research, practices, and financial accountability. Abacus, 51(4), 499–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beattie, V., & Smith, S. J. (2013). Value creation and business models: Refocusing the intellectual capital. British Accounting Review, 45(4), 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolden, R., & Moscarola, J. (2000). Bridging the quantitative-qualitative divide: The lexical approach to textual data analysis. Social Science Computer Review, 18(4), 450–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2014). Integrated reporting: on the need for broadening out and opening up. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27(7), 1120–1156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chauvey, J.-N., Giordano-Spring, S., Cho, C., & Patten, D. M. (2015). The normativity and legitimacy of CSR disclosure: Evidence from France. Journal of Business Ethics, 130(4), 789–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cheng, B., Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2014). Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance. Strategic Management Journal, 35(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. L. L., Holder-Webb, L. N., & Wood, D. J. (2012). Corporate reporting on non-financial leading indicators of economic performance and Sustainability. Accounting Horizons, 26(1), 65–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Connelly, B. L., Certo, S. T., Ireland, R. D., & Reutzel, C. R. (2011). Signaling theory: A review and assesment. Journal of Management, 37(1), 39–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coulson, A., Adams, C., Nugent, M., & Haynes, K. (2015). Exploring metaphors of capitals and the framing of multiple capitals: challenges and opportunities for IR. Sustainability Accounting, Management & Policy Journal, 6(3), 290–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crowley, C., Harre, R., & Tagg, C. (2002). Qualitative research and computing: methodological issues and practices in using QSR NVivo and NUD*IST. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 5(3), 193–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Groot, R., Van der Perk, J., Chiesura, A., & Van Vliet, A. (2003). Importance and threats as determining factors for criticality of natural capital. Ecological Economics, 44(2), 187–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. de Villiers, C., Rinaldi, L., & Unerman, J. (2014). Integrated Reporting: Insights, gaps, and an agenda for future research. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27(7), 1042–1067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. de Villiers, C., & van Staden, C. J. (2011). Where firms choose to disclose voluntary environmental information. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 30(6), 504–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. de Villiers, C., Venter, E., & Hsiao, P. (2017). Integrated reporting: Background, measurement issues, approaches and an agenda for future research. Accounting & Finance, 57(4), 937–959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dean, A., & Kretschmer, M. (2007). Can ideas be capital? Factors of production in the postindustrial economy: A review and critique. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 573–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dumay, J., Bernardi, C., Guthrie, J., & Demartini, P. (2016). Integrated reporting: A structured literature review. Accounting Forum 4à(3), 166-185.Google Scholar
  20. Eccles, R. G., & Krus, M. P. (2010). One report: Integrated reporting for a sustainable strategy. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Ekins, P., Simon, S., Deutsch, L., Folke, C., & De Groot, R. (2003). A Framework for the practical application of the concepts of critical natural capital and strong sustainability. Ecological Economics, 44(2–3), 165–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Figge, F. (2005). Capital substituability and weak sustainability revisited: The conditions for capital substitution in the presence of risk. Environmental Values, 14(2), 185–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Flower, J. (2015). The international integrated reporting council: A story of failure. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 27(March), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frias-Aceituno, J. V., Rodriguez-Ariza, L., & Garcia-Sanchez, I. M. (2014). Explanatory factors of integrated sustainability and financial reporting. Business Strategy and the Environment, 23(1), 56–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Graham, J. R., Harvey, C. R., & Rajgopal, S. (2005). The economic implications of corporate financial reporting. Journal of Accounting and Economics, 40(1/3), 3–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Guthrie, J., Ricceri, F., & Dumay, J. (2012). Reflections and projections: A decade of intellectual capital accounting research. The British Accounting Review, 44(2), 68–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. IFAC. (2013). Enhancing Organisational Reporting. In I. F. o. Accountants (Ed.).Google Scholar
  28. IIRC. (2011). Towards integrated reporting communication value in the 21st century. Available at: http://www.theiirc/international-ir-framework.
  29. IIRC. (2013). The International <IR> Framework. Available at:
  30. IIRC. (2017a). Creating value - the value of human capital reporting. Available at:
  31. IIRC. (2017b). The cyclical power of integrated thinking and reporting Available at:
  32. Jensen, J. C., & Berg, N. (2012). Determinants of traditional sustainability reporting versus integrated reporting. An institutionalist approach. Business Strategy and the Environment, 21(5), 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. King, M., & Roberts, L. (2013). Integrate, doing business in the 21st Century. South Africa: Claremont.Google Scholar
  34. Kirmani, A., & Rao, A. R. (2000). No pain, no gain: A critical review of the literature on signaling unobservable product quality. Journal of Marketing, 64(2), 66–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. KPMG. (2012). Integrated reporting: performance insight through better business reporting. In I. 2 (Ed.), Integrated Reporting, Vol. 2: KPMG.Google Scholar
  36. Krippendorf, K. (2013). Content Analysis: An Introduction to its methodology. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Lassini, U., Lionzo, A., & Rossignoli, F. (2016). Does business model affect accounting choice? An empirical analysis of European listed companies. Journal of Management and Governance, 20(2), 229–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lewins, A., & Silver, C. (2007). Using software for qualitative data analysis: A step-by-step guide. CA: Thousand Oaks.Google Scholar
  39. Melloni, G., Stacchezzini, R., & Lai, A. (2016). The tone of business model disclosure: An impression management analysis of integrated reports. Journal of Management and Governance, 20(2), 295–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldana, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis. A methods sourcebook. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Milne, M., & Gray, R. (2013). W(h)ither ecology? The triple bottom line, the global reporting initiative, and corporate sustainability reporting. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(1), 13–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Montiel, I., & Delgado-Ceballos, J. (2014). Defining & measuring corporate sustainability: Are we there yet? Organization & Environment, 27(2), 113–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. O’Reilly, K., Paper, D., & Marx, S. (2012). Demystifying grounded theory for business research. Organizational Research Methods, 15(2), 247–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pistoni, A., Songini, L., & Perrone, O. (2016). The how and why of a firm’s approach to CSR and sustainability: A case study of a large European company. Journal of Management and Governance, 20(3), 655–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Powell, S. (2003). Accounting for intangible assets: Current requirements, key players and future directions. European Accounting Review, 12(4), 797–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pucci, T., Simoni, C., & Zanni, L. (2015). Measuring the relationship between assets, intellectual capital and firm performance. Journal of Management and Governance, 19(3), 589–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Richards, L., & Richards, T. (1991). The Transformation of Qualitative Method: Computational Paradigms and Research Processes. In N. G. a. L. Fielding, R.M (Eds), (Ed.), Using Computers in Qualititative Research: 38–53. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. Robertson, F. A., & Samy, M. (2015). Factors affecting the diffusion of integrated reporting—a UK FTS 100 perspective. Sustainability Accounting, Management & Policy Journal, 6(2), 190–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Romero, S., Lin, B., & Jeffers, A. (2014). An overview of sustainability reporting practices. CPA Journal, 84(3), 68–71.Google Scholar
  50. Ross, S. A. (1977). The determination of financial structure: the incentive-signalling approach. The Bell Journal of Economics, 81(1), 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simnett, R., & Huggins, A. L. (2015). Integrated reporting and assurance: where can research add value? Sustainability Accounting, Management & Policy Journal, 6(1), 29–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Spence, M. (1973). Job market signaling. Quaterly Journal of Economics, 87(3), 353–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Spence, M. (2002). Signaling in restrospect and the informational structure of markets. American Economic Review, 92(3), 434–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stiglitz, J. E. (2000). The contributions of the economics of information to twenthieth century economics. Quaterly Journal of Economics, 115(4), 1441–1478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stubbs, W., & Higgins, C. (2018). Stakeholders’ perspectives on the role of regulatory reform in integrated reporting. Journal of Business Ethics, 147(3), 489–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thomson, I. (2015). ‘But does sustainability need capitalism or an integrated report’ a commentary on ‘The International Integrated Reporting Council: A story of failure’ by Flower. Journal Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 27(March), 18–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Van den Bergh, J. C. (2010). Externality or Sustainability Economics? Ecological Economics, 69(11), 2047–2052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Villalonga, B. (2004). Intangible resources, Tobin’s q, and sustainability of performance differences. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54(2), 205–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Weber, R. P. (1990). Basic content analysis newbury park. CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Welsh, E. (2002). Dealing with data: Using NVivo in the qualitative data analysis process. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 3(2), Art 26.Google Scholar
  61. Wyatt, A. (2008). What financial and non-financial information on intangibles is value-relevant? A review of evidence. Accounting and Business Research, 38(3), 217–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  63. Zerbini, F. (2017). CSR Initiatives as market signals: A review and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics, 146(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IAE-Sorbonne Business SchoolParisFrance

Personalised recommendations