The time is right for Integrated Reporting

2 March, 2017

As many corporate reporters are currently immersed in the annual reporting process, it’s both a busy time and a relevant time for Black Sun to reflect back on the past several months. A lot has taken place in the market, both in the UK and globally. Geo-political impacts have triggered new agendas whilst trust in business remains at an all-time low. Developments in international reporting across the globe is increasingly creating a change of focus by governments and investors worldwide – impacting wider stakeholder groups. This year, many non-financial reporting directives are taking effect across multiple regions. Focus is on the sustainable development goals and the Integrated Reporting Framework is being adopted at a rapid pace as many government bodies, regulators, listed companies and public organisations are realising the benefits of an integrated approach. All of these drivers have been building over time to lead us into place where the time is ‘right’ for Integrated Reporting.

Governance themes and the role of the Board remain a global topic when addressing wider stakeholder engagement. In the UK, these discussions revolve around best practice in accordance with board duties under Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006. Broader issues that centre on the concerns of key stakeholder groups such as employees, customers and suppliers are being discussed internationally. Whilst many of these steps are being led by regulatory reform, there is a robust evolution of organisations that are adopting measures that take into account best practice reporting in a holistic, market-led approach. We feel that the Integrated Reporting framework is well-positioned to stay congruent with this market-led approach.

In the past twenty-five years that Black Sun has been working strategically with organisations in telling their story, we have evolved to working with clients in specifically focusing their value creation story. We were early adopters of the best practice reporting principles that are at the heart of integrated thinking and reporting processes. To offer our clients opportunities to enhance their knowledge and reporting processes was a natural next step. Through the foundations that Integrated Reporting is built upon- the guiding principles, content elements and the <IR> Framework – this foundation remains to be market-led, international, practical and adaptive. We find that Integrated Reporting is a useful tool to tackle the challenges of the corporate reporting process and we remain committed to better reporting through this market-led approach. We have researched this area for several years, and share our findings through a variety of research pieces. Our recently issued, What Better Reporting Looks Like is a ‘snapshot of 50 organisations from around the world recognised for their integrated reporting to assess emerging trends and to see what ‘good’ looks like. The review looks at the ‘best of the best’, and features well-known companies who have been recognised for their reporting.’ Additionally, we seek to provide practical resources to the wider reporting community through the <IR> Examples Database which features best practice examples of ‘what good looks like’ in integrated reports from around the world.

Providing accredited integrated reporting training as an IIRC partner, through our Best Practice Communications Academy, was a natural progression based upon the years of experience in the market, and making practical tools and resources available for our clients. Integrated Reporting training improves the cultivation of best practices in corporate reporting and illuminates the value creation story, enhancing our clients’ abilities to align thinking and processes in order to produce a high quality report. Our research continues to evidence that the benefits of integrated thinking is at the heart of integrated reporting. The internal benefits and practices realised from embracing an integrated approach is that organisations are better able to articulate their purpose, strategy and value, resulting in sustainable trust and strengthened relationships with their stakeholders for the short, medium and long-term.

Organisations are continually faced with the challenge of differentiating themselves. As the technological age advances us all at the speed of light, remaining both authentic and relevant in a noisy world is difficult. Transparency, compliance and ethics continues to evolve, yet purpose within the realm of best practice corporate governance remains a solid feature of any business. Defining purpose beyond profit is the key to advancement for all sectors. We have found that the guiding principles and content elements of integrated reporting are useful tools in remaining both authentic and relevant as organisations continually work to define their value creation story; taking into account a wider group of stakeholders.

At the launch or our Best Practice Communications Academy, Black Sun’s Academy Director, Sallie Pilot shared the sentiments: ‘Through our work with the IIRC, and our research into <IR> and trends in best practice reporting over the years, we have seen the positive impact of organisations today taking an integrated and long-term approach to creating and communicating value. We believe that our <IR> training programme, delivered through the Black Sun Academy, will help strengthen the commitment of all types of organisations towards driving change and focusing on long-term sustainable development.’

We’re committed to training our own teams and realising the benefits that integrated thinking can achieve within our own organisation. 45% of our staff across the UK and Singapore have successfully completed <IR> training, including 95% of our client-facing teams. In addition to exploring internal benefits, we have successfully delivered specialised training sessions with several corporate clients from diverse sectors, who have had the opportunity to explore how best practices can enhance their corporate and value creation story by gaining key insights into how value is created, captured and communicated. We continue to explore best practice from the inside out. This perspective supports our overall purpose to create businesses that are more valued by their stakeholders. One of the ways we do this is by delivering meaningful impact through best practice integrated reporting training.

To learn more about our training, please get in touch or visit our website here.

Kaarina Vieru, Academy Manager: [email protected]