Relationship with stakeholders
An integrated report should provide insight into the nature and quality of the organisation’s relationships with its key stakeholders, including how and to what extent the organisation understands, takes into account and responds to their needs and interests. Further, the report should be consistent over time to enable comparison with other entities.
South African organisations have been acknowledged as among the leaders in this area of corporate reporting with many listed companies and large state-owned companies having issued integrated reports. An integrated report may be prepared in response to existing compliance requirements – for example, a management commentary. Where that report is also prepared according to the framework, or even beyond the framework, it can be considered an integrated report. An integrated report may be either a standalone report or be included as a distinguishable part of another report or communication. For example, it can be included in the company’s financial statements.
The IIRC considered the nature of value and value creation. These terms can include the total of all the capitals, the benefit captured by the company, the market value or cash flows of the organisation and the successful achievement of the company’s objectives. However, the conclusion reached was that the framework should not define value from any one particular perspective because value depends upon the individual company’s own perspective. It can be shown through movement of capital and can be defined as value created for the company or for others. An integrated report should not attempt to quantify value as assessments of value are left to those using the report.
Many respondents felt that there should be a requirement for a statement from those ‘charged with governance’ acknowledging their responsibility for the integrated report in order to ensure the reliability and credibility of the integrated report. Additionally, it would increase the accountability for the content of the report.
The IIRC feels the inclusion of such a statement may result in additional liability concerns, such as inconsistency with regulatory requirements in certain jurisdictions, and could lead to a higher level of legal liability. The IIRC also felt that the above issues might result in a slower take-up of the report and decided that those ‘charged with governance’ should, in time, be required to acknowledge their responsibility for the integrated report while, at the same time, recognising that reports in which they were not involved would lack credibility.
There has been discussion about whether the framework constitutes suitable criteria for report preparation and for assurance. The questions asked concerned measurement standards to be used for the information reported and how a preparer can ascertain the completeness of the report.
There were concerns over the ability to assess future disclosures, and recommendations were made that specific criteria should be used for measurement, the range of outcomes and the need for any confidence intervals be disclosed. The preparation of an integrated report requires judgment but there is a requirement for the report to describe its basis of preparation and presentation, including the significant frameworks and methods used to quantify or evaluate material matters. Also included is the disclosure of a summary of how the company determined the materiality limits and a description of the reporting boundaries.
The IIRC has stated that the prescription of specific KPIs and measurement methods is beyond the scope of a principles-based framework. The framework contains information on the principle-based approach and indicates that there is a need to include quantitative indicators whenever practicable and possible. Additionally, consistency of measurement methods across different reports is of paramount importance. There is outline guidance on the selection of suitable quantitative indicators.
A company should consider how to describe the disclosures without causing a significant loss of competitive advantage. The entity will consider what advantage a competitor could actually gain from information in the integrated report, and will balance this against the need for disclosure.
Companies struggle to communicate value through traditional reporting. The framework can prove an effective tool for businesses looking to shift their reporting focus from annual financial performance to long-term shareholder value creation. The framework will be attractive to companies who wish to develop their narrative reporting around the business model to explain how the business has been developed.