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The trend of integrated reporting practice in South Africa: ceremonial or substantive?

journal contribution
posted on 2016-05-03, 00:00 authored by Abdifatah HajiAbdifatah Haji, Mutalib Anifowose
Purpose –
The purpose of this paper is to examine the trend of integrated reporting (IR) practice following the introduction of an “apply or explain” IR requirement in South Africa. In particular, the authors examine whether the IR practice is ceremonial or substantive in the context of a soft regulatory environment.
Design/methodology/approach –
By way of content analyses, the authors examine the extent and quality of IR practice using an IR checklist developed based on normative understanding of existing IR guidelines. The evidence is drawn from 246 integrated reports of large South African companies over a three-year period (2011-2013), following the introduction of IR requirement in South Africa.
Findings –
The results show a significant increase in the extent and quality of IR practice. The findings also reveal significant improvements in individual IR categories such as connectivity of information, materiality determination process and reliability and completeness of the integrated reports. However, despite the increasing trend and evidence of both symbolic and substantive IR practice, the authors conclude that the current IR practice is largely ceremonial in nature, produced to acquire organisational legitimacy.
Practical implications –
For academics, the authors argue that there is a need to move away from the “what” and “why” aspects of the IR agenda to “how” IR should work inside organisations. In particular, academics should engage with firms through interventionist research to help firms implement integrated
thinking and substantive reporting practices. For organisations, the findings draw attention to specific aspects of IR that require improvement. For policymakers, the study provides evidence based on the
developmental stage of IR practice and draws attention to certain areas that need clarification. In particular, the International Integrated Reporting Council and Integrated Reporting Committee of South Africa should
provide detailed guidelines on connectivity of information, material issues and disclosure of multiple capitals and their trade-offs. Finally, for educators, in line with the ACCA’s embedment of IR in its accounting
courses, there is a need to incorporate IR in the curriculum; in particular, the authors argue that the best way to advance IR is in a “ubiquitous” spread in accounting and management courses.
Originality/value – This study provides empirical account of IR practice over time in the context of a regulatory IR environment. The construction of an IR checklist developed based on normative understanding of local and international IR guidelines is another novel approach of this study.



Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal






190 - 224


Emerald Publishing


Bingley, Eng.





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2016, Emerald Group Publishing