Corporate and Integrated Reporting: A Functional Perspective

by Robert Eccles & George Serafeim

Overview — Corporate reporting plays two functions. The first is an "information function" that enables counterparties, such as investors, employees, customers, and regulators, to enter into an exchange of goods and services under specific terms. Companies also benefit from the information function by comparing their performance against peers, thereby informing internal resource allocation decisions. The second is a "transformation function," the result of a company engaging with stakeholders to get their input on the company's resource allocation decisions. The authors argue that integrated reporting is more likely to perform effectively these two functions than separate financial and sustainability reporting. Moreover, as the authors argue, these two functions vary in terms of how important the role of regulation is. Regulation and standard setting is likely to improve the information function but could well impede the transformation function. If regulation is too prescriptive and "rules-based," the risk is that integrated reporting becomes more of a compliance exercise. Key concepts include:

  • Investors need a better understanding of how companies are managing the relationships between financial and nonfinancial performance.
  • Separate financial and sustainability reports are no longer adequate for performing either the information function or the transformation function.
  • Companies need integrated reporting in order to make sure that their corporate reporting process effectively performs the information and transformation functions.

Author Abstract

In this paper, we present the two primary functions of corporate reporting (information and transformation) and why currently isolated financial and sustainability reporting are not likely to perform those functions effectively. We describe the concept of integrated reporting and why integrated reporting could be a superior mechanism to perform these functions. Moreover, we discuss, through a series of case studies, what constitutes an effective integrated report (Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company) and the role of regulation in integrated reporting (Anglo-American).

Paper Information