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What’s wrong with integrated reporting? A systematic review

Abstract

Integrated reporting, the latest attempt to overcome the shortcomings of financial and sustainability reporting, has fast emerged as a new accounting practice. Recently, however, the integrated reporting movement has lost some of its momentum and is increasingly the subject of heated debate and controversy. In the related academic discourse, numerous scholars have started to question and challenge this new reporting trend from diverse angles. Against this backdrop, the present article reviews the current state of the academic literature to identify the major lines of criticism. Our findings show that the central critique relates to the fundamental concepts and guiding principles of the integrated reporting framework as well as to the International Integrated Reporting Council itself. By carving out the pivotal problem areas of integrated reporting, we identify critical issues that likely need to be addressed before integrated reporting can be expected to stand the test of time. We further identify three priority areas of criticism and discuss the attribution of responsibilities as well as approaches that offer potential solutions within these areas. Practitioners are invited to build upon our findings as potential intervention points for promoting the future acceptance and dissemination of integrated reports.

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Notes

  1. According to the KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2017 (KPMG 2017), about one-third of companies label their reports as integrated without specific reference to the IIRC framework. However, and for the sake of clarity, this article uses the terms integrated reporting and integrated report(s) in the following chapters exclusively to refer to those reports that comply with the IIRC reporting framework. The abbreviation G250 captures “the world’s 250 largest companies by revenue based on the Fortune 500 ranking of 2016,” whereas N100 “refers to a worldwide sample of 4900 companies comprising the top 100 companies by revenue in each of the 49 countries researched” in the study (KPMG 2017, p. 3).

  2. The term impression management is generally defined as “the process by which individuals attempt to control the impressions others form of them” (Leary and Kowalski 1990, p. 34). In the specific context of corporate reporting practice, impression management refers to “the tendency for the organization to use data selectively and present them in a favourable light to manipulate audience perceptions of corporate achievements” (Melloni 2015, p. 665).

  3. We fully acknowledge that the identified points of criticism are not necessarily unique to IR. For instance, the principle of reliability has also been subject to criticism and controversial debate within the context of sustainability (Boiral and Henri 2017) and financial reporting (Zhang 2012). In contrast to these reporting approaches, however, IR is far from being a mainstream reporting practice. We therefore argue that all identified points of criticism deserve attention within the IR movement, although some issues are applicable to reporting frameworks in general.

References

All 37 articles included in our review are marked with an asterisk (*).

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Correspondence to Josua Oll.

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J. Oll and S. Rommerskirchen declare that they have no competing interests.

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Oll, J., Rommerskirchen, S. What’s wrong with integrated reporting? A systematic review. NachhaltigkeitsManagementForum 26, 19–34 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00550-018-0475-x

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Keywords

  • Integrated reporting
  • International Integrated Reporting Council
  • Literature review
  • Criticism