Learning from the pioneers

The fast-approaching end of the year is often a time for reflection on the year that was. One of the thoughts that often occupies my mind is the question of the degree to which integrated reporting has progressed. Is it truly becoming the global reporting norm and is progress being made towards its implementation?

One of the leading indicators for me as to how this may play out and how these questions may be answered in the future is to look to some of the pioneers in the field in the form of the IIRC pilot programme companies. I was thrilled to be part of the pilot programme conference this year as part of the PwC team that surveyed the integrated reports of a sample of these companies. You can find our report here. My initial reaction was that there is no doubt that companies have made significant progress in integrated reporting. It is clear that many have put a huge amount of effort into their external reporting and that some have focused on firming up their internal information systems so that decisions are based on a broader set of information.

However, our survey also showed that there is still room for improvement. Reflecting on the results, we have identified five broad themes where we think there are still areas for improvement. These are explained in full in the report.

Getting the story right

An interesting challenge for me was the balance between telling enough of a story to be convincing yet having it concise enough to only discuss the key points. Linked to this was a challenge that many companies seemed to experience in telling their own story rather than the story they thought the audience wanted to hear, or the story they thought the IIRC framework wanted them to tell. How can I prove the above two themes? I can’t. It’s a feeling that I and the other reviewers got as we reviewed the reports. I am keen to hear your thoughts on this.

As for the other themes, they are a lot easier to prove in that its quite clear that companies still battle with the notion of what exactly performance is, connecting the parts of the report to create a holistic story and thinking about reporting and their business in a broad manner.

My experiences have shown that some of these challenges are easy pickings and others will require a bit more thought, perhaps a bit of twisting of the arms of colleagues to convince them of a new way of thinking or a change in internal processes. I am keen to hear your suggestions and thoughts on the road ahead.