Dr Kristin Köhler

is the CEO of the Center for Corporate Reporting (CCR) in Zurich, Switzerland. Prior to this she was a research associate at the Chair for Strategic Communication at the University of Leipzig.

Prof. Dr Christian P. Hoffmann

is professor for communication management at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany, and a lecturer at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and at Singapore Management University.

integrated Reporting

How valuable is Integrated Reporting? – Insights from best- practice companies

By Christian Hoffmann & Kristin Köhler / Illustration: Anne Lück

Integrated Reporting (<IR>) is doubtless one of the most-debated topics in the corporate reporting community. Why all the hype? Internationally, numerous corporations are considering the adoption of <IR>. Yet what benefits can early movers expect? To find out, the Center for Corporate Reporting (CCR) and the University of Leipzig initiated a joint research project on the benefits and challenges of <IR> implementation.

The study shows that <IR> implementation is tackled on two levels: as a managerial change process at the strategic level, and as a reporting process at the operational level. On both levels there are arguments for and against implementation.

Arguments for and against the implementation of <IR> as a management approach

From a management perspective, <IR> implementation is driven by the adoption of integrated thinking. Corporations can benefit from improved information and data access, advanced decision support systems – and a more holistic view of the company. These insights facilitate a forward-looking stance and sound strategic decision-making. Risk management can be improved by highlighting interdependencies in the value process. As increased transparency leads to better assessments of opportunities and risks, management finds it easier to align strategic objectives. Businesses report a renewed appreciation and improved internal understanding of the value process as well as employee identification with the company. By disclosing value drivers and analyzing the value chain, individual contributions of each function and department are highlighted and appreciated. By linking financial and non-financial capitals, <IR> enables a holistic presentation of the company, which in turn elucidates the value drivers for stakeholders. The status as an <IR> pioneer combined with increased transparency can enhance the public image of the corporation and improve stakeholder trust – including investor trust.

Arguments against implementation include internal resistance by individual departments and individual employees, particularly resistance to the changes resulting from the implementation. Another downside is recognized in higher costs and resource requirements at every level of the corporation, primarily due to lack of experience and an increase in guidelines. Furthermore, a greater degree of transparency leads to potential new risks for the company due to the disclosure of negatives and the corresponding responsibilities.

Arguments for and against the implementation of <IR> as a reporting format

An integrated report can optimize reporting, e. g. enable multiple departments to collaborate on an interdisciplinary level, share information and create synergies. It can broaden the understanding and knowledge of the overall corporation and different departments. A positive outcome of the implementation process is a strengthening of the internal dialogue beyond departmental boundaries. <IR> implementation can also enhance resource efficiency as financial, sustainability and governance reports are merged (up to and including production and distribution costs). Operational decision-making processes are expedited due to an improved consistency in individual reports on the corporation’s value chain. The integrated report can also facilitate external communication by providing a consistent tool applicable to various stakeholders, and through disclosure of relevant information and linkages to the financial community. The integrated report satisfies investors’ need for a holistic picture of the company to enable easier, more comprehensive assessments.
On the down side, the introduction of <IR> can cause sweeping changes and a lengthy implementation period. It may well take several years from the initial implementation decision to the publication of the first report. A tremendous coordination effort is needed when there is lack of experience in interdepartmental cooperation. Generally, the resource requirements are perceived as high, although each corporation can actively shape the process and edit the report according to distinct requirements. To enable a step-by-step implementation of Integrated Reporting, it is possible to draw and build on existing reporting structures and processes which are then adapted and extended incrementally. However, respondents agreed that they would embark on the journey again if they had to do it all over again (see figure for overview of benefits).

From December 2015 to April 2016, expert interviews were conducted with individuals responsible for corporate reporting from 13 international companies (Bayer, DSM, EnBW, exxaro, JLL, Munich Airport, Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, Palfinger, PPR, SAP, Standard Bank, Takeda), as well as four consultancies (BSD, EY Switzerland, EY UK, Pauffley & Company). All of the companies had already implemented Integrated Reporting at the time of the survey.
The study was sponsored by CCR corporate member Clariant International.

If you are interested in the research report, including key learnings and recommendations for action, please contact us: info@corporate-reporting.com

Arguments for the implementation of <IR> from a company perspective

•    Improved risk management and decision-making
•    Detailed understanding of value creation
•    Holistic understanding and management of the organization

•    Enhanced efficiency of reporting process (esp. due to material issues)
•    Strengthened internal dialogues
•    Simplified operational decision-making

•    Holistic and transparent company presentation
•    Competitive advantage as a first mover
•    Improved stakeholder communication

•    Report as a new communication instrument
•    Investor satisfaction from a company perspective
•    Improved sell-side prognosis