Critical analysis of the contribution of Integrated Reporting (IR) to sustainability

de Villiers, Charl and Dimes, Ruth (2022). Critical analysis of the contribution of Integrated Reporting (IR) to sustainability. In: Adams, Carol ed. Handbook of Accounting and Sustainability. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, pp. 210–223.



Integrated Reporting (IR) aims to be a concise communication of an organisation's value creation story. IR's promoters see it as a force for financial stability and sustainable development, yet there are mixed opinions and research evidence on IR's real contribution to the broader sustainability agenda. There are many positive examples of companies engaging with IR and claiming to realise multiple external and internal benefits. Yet there are also tales of box-ticking and criticisms of IR's focus on investor interests rather than on environmental and social sustainability. This chapter gives some background on IR, critically examines how IR has contributed to the sustainability agenda to date and considers its potential to contribute in the future. It shows that although IR has the potential to contribute to lasting change, notably through Integrated Thinking, its continued and increasing focus on a narrow financial definition of sustainability and value creation restricts this potential.

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