How integrated reporting has developed from social and environmental reporting.

Integrated reporting (IR) in corporate communication is a “process that results in communication, most visibly a periodic “integrated report”, about value creation over time. An integrated report is a concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects lead to the creation of value over the short, medium and long term.

According to Bob Massie, co-founder of the Global Reporting Initiative,’Integrated reporting advances the proposition that sustainability reporting and financial reporting are inherently linked and thus would benefit from merging.’

It first emerged as social and environmental reporting whereby companies disclose the impact of their operations, both positive and negative, on the community and environment in which they operate. Typical social disclosures might include details of community support programmes, charitable fundraising activities and educational and social programmes for employees. Typical environmental disclosures might include activities to reduce levels of emissions, recycling programmes and pollution controls.

More recently, these types of basic social and environmental disclosures have developed into sustainability reporting. This form of reporting particularly focuses on the issue of sustainable development and whether the operations of an organization are sustainable into the future. The ability of an organization’s performance to be sustainable into the future is said to be based on its economic, environmental, social and governance performance. For example, in order to be sustainable, a company must limit its use of non-renewable energy sources (an environmental issue); it must also treat its staff well and reward them adequately to ensure their continued support (economic and social issues). Therefore, sustainability reporting discloses environmental and social issues but also expands disclosure to integrate the economic impact of a company, for example through wages, taxes and purchasing policy, and governance i.e. how the company is run. 

Integrated reporting develops the concept of sustainability reporting further by linking sustainability issues to financial strategy and results, sometimes referred to as  ‘triple bottom line’ or PPP reporting (‘Profit, Planet and People’). This form of reporting is based on the idea that companies that achieve success in the future will be those that have an integrated strategy that achieves financial results whilst also creating lasting value for the company itself, its stakeholders and the wider society.

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