As a result of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)’s Framework being issued in December 2013, integrated reporting has truly begun to take off around the world. But there are still many organizations that are nervous about taking the first steps into this new world of reporting.
So why did ACCA decide to move toward integrated reporting for our own annual report to our members and other stakeholders, back in 2011?
Firstly, the emphasis integrated reporting places on telling your own value creation story really resonated with me. As a values-driven organization, integrated reporting was the opportunity we had been looking for to tell a more complete and holistic story of our performance and outlook to our stakeholders.
Secondly, we had talked a great deal internally about how we could become more customer-focused as an organization and put the voice of the customer at the center of product and service development. It was logical to extend this to our reporting and the emphasis integrated reporting places on stakeholder engagement and dialogue fit perfectly with the direction in which we were already moving as a professional body. Our experience is that, when you ask readers what they think about your reporting, they are only too happy to tell you (it helps, of course, when they are qualified accountants!).
But the richness of feedback we’ve received and how useful it has been in developing our thinking and reporting has surpassed my expectations. For example, on receiving this year’s integrated report, a member in Switzerland made some very considered and detailed observations on some of the measures we were using for our strategic outcomes. While we’d already addressed these in the measures we are using for our strategy to 2020, we’d never have received this really valuable and detailed input if we’d not been transparent about how we measure our performance and why we do it in the way we do. This has been an important part of maintaining the high level of trust between the organization and the diverse population of members we serve and extending the dialogue we need to be having in order to continually improve.
Similarly, integrated reporting enabled us to show our employees that we lived up to our public promise of being accountable. As Chief Executive, I report on how we are performing in relation to our key performance indicators (KPIs) to our employees every month. For our people to see that we give our external stakeholders exactly the same information on our performance, using the same metrics, has been really powerful and helped sustain strong employee engagement with our mission, values and strategy—something that is worth its weight in gold for any organization.
And lastly, as a founding member of the IIRC, I believed we should lead by example—not the least because working out how to put integrated reporting principles into practice would give us fantastic insight into the challenges other organizations might face when doing the same.
Although I was convinced we were doing the right thing, I could not have predicted how positive and rewarding being an adopter of integrated reporting would be. The feedback we’ve had from our community of professional accountancy bodies and other partners has also been fantastic.
My advice to other professional accountancy bodies? Just do it—because fortune really does reward the brave!
To learn more about Integrated Reporting, visit the World Congress of Accountants 2014 this November 10 – 14, in Rome, Italy (Plenary III – Integrated Thinking: The Key to Improved Performance and Value Creation).