Integrated Reporting, defined by the IIRC (International Integrated Reporting Council) as a new approach to corporate reporting that demonstrates the linkages between an organization’s strategy, governance and financial performance and the social, environmental and economic context within which it operates, is on the rise as companies try to demonstrate their focus to sustainability, an increasingly important issue to many consumers.
Of course, producing one is only the first challenges. As noted in this recent ISM article on how Integrated Reports [are] on the Rise, there is no universally accepted framework for integrated reporting, and it remains largely a voluntary practice. Given that this report is supposed to show the relationship between financial and non-financial performance, and how strong performance in environmental and social areas contributes to good financial performance, and that this report may include facts regarding potential trade-offs that might occur across financial and non-financial performance, it’s difficult to select an appropriate structure.
But given that some countries are now requiring such reports for public companies, it likely won’t be long before we see such a requirement in North America. For example, South Africa now requires all companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to provide integrated reports (or explain why they are not doing so). France passed a law in 2010 for companies with 500 or more employees to include a section in their annual reports that describe the environmental and social consequences of their actions. Denmark requires its largest companies to include similar non-financial information in annual reporting, and the UK is making a push for similar legislation.
Given that about 100 companies from different industries and countries plan to use the IIRC framework to produce their own integrated report, and then provide feedback for future revisions, it’s likely that the IIRC framework will involve into a standard, just like GAAP, but how long it will take will likely depend upon when additional legislation requiring integrated reporting comes into effect in the G-20.
So what does this have to do with Supply Management? As noted in the ISM article, that quoted Robert G. Eccles, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, Supply Management, by virtue of its function within an organization, is an ideal catalyst to spread integrated reporting. No one knows the impact of organizational activities better than Supply Management, so the requirement for integrated reporting will fall heavy on Supply Management.
The big issue though is how to make such a document a “living report”. As the supply chain evolves, so does the ramifications of the company’s activities on social and environmental ecosystems. Supply Management will need a solution that allows this information to be kept up to date. Will SIM (Supplier Information Management) systems step up to the challenge, or will an entirely new solution be needed?