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IR, it’s like God, no one met Him but everybody talks about Him - The Power of Myths in the Adoption of Management Innovations


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The paper received the "Highly Commended" distinction in the 2018 Mary Parker Follett Award competition (i.e. selected among the top three papers published in the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal in 2018). Purpose: This paper analyzes the process through which an IIRC (International Integrated Reporting Council) pilot company adopted "integrated reporting" (IR), a management innovation that merges financial and non-financial reporting. Design/methodology/approach: We use a seven-year longitudinal ethnographic study based on semi-structured interviews, observations, and documentary evidence to analyze this multinational company's IR adoption process from its decision to become an IIRC pilot organization to the publication of its first integrated report. Findings: We demonstrate that the company envisioned IR as a "rational myth" (Hatchuel, 1998; Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). This conceptualization acted as a springboard for IR adoption, with the mythical dimension residing in the promise that IR had the potential to portray global performance in light of the company's own foundational myth. The company challenged the vision of IR suggested by the IIRC to stay true to its conceptualization of IR and eventually chose to implement its own version of an integrated report. Originality/value: We enrich previous research on integrated reporting and management innovations by showing how important it is for organizations to acknowledge the mythical dimension of the management innovations they pursue to support their adoption processes. Based on these findings, we argue that myths can play a productive role in transforming business (reporting) practices. We also identify some transition conditions that make this transformation possible and discuss the implications of these results for the future of IR, sustainability and accounting more broadly.
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Integrated Reporting Is Like God:
No One Has Met Him, but Everybody Talks About Him.
The Power of Myths in the Adoption of Management Innovations
Delphine Gibassier*
Department of Management Control, Accounting and Auditing,
University of Toulouse, Toulouse Business School, 20 Boulevard Lascrosses
31068 Toulouse cedex 7, France
Michelle Rodrigue
École de comptabilité
Université Laval (Canada)
Diane-Laure Arjaliès
Ivey Business School
University of Western Ontario (Canada)
*corresponding author
Manuscript accepted for publication in Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal.
November 2017
We gratefully acknowledge funding received from the ACCA and the IMA Foundation. We thank the guest editors
for their guidance and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. Comments from Cornelia Beck,
Yves Gendron, Kathleen Herbohn, Carlos Larrinaga, Matias Laine, Helen Tregidga, Adrian Zicari, and
participants at the 2014 CSEAR Conference in St-Andrews, the 2015 CSEAR France Conference, the 2015
European Management Control Symposium, the 2016 APIRA Conference and a research seminar at Auckland
University of Technology in May 2016 were also greatly appreciated in developing the manuscript.
Purpose: This paper analyzes the process through which an IIRC (International Integrated
Reporting Council) pilot company adopted “integrated reporting” (IR), a management innovation
that merges financial and non-financial reporting.
Design/methodology/approach: We use a seven-year longitudinal ethnographic study based on
semi-structured interviews, observations, and documentary evidence to analyze this multinational
company’s IR adoption process from its decision to become an IIRC pilot organization to the
publication of its first integrated report.
Findings: We demonstrate that the company envisioned IR as a “rational myth” (Hatchuel, 1998;
Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). This conceptualization acted as a springboard for IR adoption, with the
mythical dimension residing in the promise that IR had the potential to portray global performance
in light of the company’s own foundational myth. The company challenged the vision of IR
suggested by the IIRC to stay true to its conceptualization of IR and eventually chose to implement
its own version of an integrated report.
Originality/value: We enrich previous research on integrated reporting and management
innovations by showing how important it is for organizations to acknowledge the mythical
dimension of the management innovations they pursue to support their adoption processes. Based
on these findings, we argue that myths can play a productive role in transforming business
(reporting) practices. We also identify some transition conditions that make this transformation
possible and discuss the implications of these results for the future of IR, sustainability and
accounting more broadly.
Type: Research paper
Keywords: adoption, corporate reporting, IIRC, innovation, integrated reporting, rational myth,
I. Introduction
The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
began promoting <IR> in 2010. Since
then, the number of multinational companies, accounting firms, and investment organizations that
have officially praised IR
has exploded (Humphrey et al., 2017). However, this development has
not been straightforward; according to numerous practitioners, integrated reporting is probably
one of the most disruptive innovations in the field of corporate reporting (Simnett and Huggins,
2015; Deloitte, 2015; PWC, 2015).
Integrated reporting involves merging financial and non-financial reporting. Accounting for all
types of performance in a unique reporting system is undoubtedly one of the profession’s
aspirations, labelled as “global performance” by Chauvey et al. (2015). Accountants have dreamt
of some form of IR since the birth of social and environmental accounting 40 years ago (Thomson,
2015; Elkington, 1997; Stubbs and Higgins, 2015). Yet many academics have displayed scepticism
and concerns vis-à-vis the IIRC project (e.g. Atkins et al., 2015a; Brown and Dillard, 2014; de
Villiers et al., 2014; Tweedie and Martinov-Bennie, 2015). They notably worry that such integration
will ultimately favour financial over non-financial reporting and question the corporate reality of
IR (Flower, 2015; Milne and Gray, 2013; Thomson, 2015).
Several reporting schemes have attempted to account for global performance in the last decades
(Thomson, 2015; Stubbs and Higgins, 2015). Despite these tentative efforts, achieving global
performance reporting remains challenging and IR, the last attempt at integrating financial and
non-financial aspects, remains mysterious in practice. As explained by one of our interviewees, “IR
is like God no one has met Him but everybody talks about Him” (CSR director,
According to the IIRC, <IR> is a “concise communication about how an organization's strategy,
governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the
creation of value in the short, medium and long term.(2013, p.7) More broadly, IR is an ambitious
and far-reaching reporting project that challenges the current view of performance management,
which tends to be based solely on financial metrics (de Villiers et al., 2014).
Existing research on IR says little about the actual process of adopting IR. Previous studies on
<IR> have provided valuable insights into companies’ motivations for adopting this new form of
corporate reporting (e.g. Steyn, 2014; Higgins et al., 2014). But these articles pay limited attention
to whether and how organizations eventually espouse this innovation (see Beck et al. (2017) and
Lodhia (2015) for some notable exceptions). Despite the widespread calls for in-depth case studies
on the topic (de Villiers et al., 2014; Perego et al., 2016; Stubbs and Higgins, 2014; Simnett and
Huggins, 2015), the day-to-day reality of IR remains elusive.
Our research tackles this issue by providing an ethnographic account of the IR adoption process
in a large multinational company. The company under study operates in the consumer goods sector
and has embedded a long-term commitment to social and environmental responsibility into its
organizational culture. From late 2010 to 2017, we regularly interviewed managers, attended critical
meetings relating to the adoption of IR, and collected the documents and e-mails exchanged during
The IIRC was founded in 2010 by the Prince of Wales’s A4S, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and the
International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). Its mission is to establish recognition and acceptance of <IR> and
integrated thinking.
We use IR to refer to integrated reporting in general and <IR> to refer to the framework developed by the IIRC.
The Nature CFO became CSR director in March 2014. Hence, quotes by the Nature CFO/CSR director are from
the same person.
the project. The main purpose of our study is to understand how the company overcame the lack
of specific explanations as to what IR is and what it should contain. In doing so, we are tackling a
fundamental question: “How can an organization appropriate a management innovation that seems
to have only an imaginary existence?”
Our findings reveal that individuals inside the company embraced the “mythical” dimension of IR.
From the outset of the project, the company acknowledged that IR was aspirational and praised
this imaginary feature. Multiple participants reflected on the nature of IR and developed collective
conceptualizations and reconceptualizations of the innovation. Throughout this journey,
individuals connected these conceptions to the foundational socio-economic vision of the
company. The search process was often challenging, but the team eventually managed to create a
unique IR approach, tailored to the organization. At a time of strategic renewal, the company
believed that IR could help them reiterate the importance of pursuing the dream that first gave
birth to the organization.
Our article makes two main contributions. Firstly, it expands previous research on IR and
sustainability accounting more broadly through a field investigation of “accounting in action” (to
cite O’Dwyer and Unerman, 2016, p.39), developing further knowledge on the construction of
reporting via an innovative theoretical lens, as called by Unerman and Chapman (2014). Although
IR has gained considerable traction among practitioners and academics, few studies to date have
investigated how companies make sense of this reporting innovation. We show that the mythical
dimension of IR can act as a springboard for merging financial and non-financial reporting. We
suggest some transition conditions required for such change to unfold. In this way, we hope to
broaden the research on sustainability and accounting by demonstrating the need to restore the
productive role of myths in the transformation of business (reporting) practices (Hatchuel and
Weil, 1992; Hatchuel, 1998).
Secondly, our article enriches previous research on the adoption of management innovations.
Previous studies have explained why organizations want to adopt management innovations
(Zbaracki, 1998; Collier, 2001; Rautiainen, 2010; Aguilera et al., 2007; Boiral, 2007; Volberda et al.,
2014). However, there is very little research on how organizations evaluate and make sense of these
innovations once they show an interest in them (Frenkel, 2005; Busco et al., 2015). We argue that
the generative power of innovations results not only from their incompleteness and unattainable
perfection (Busco and Quattrone, 2015, 2017) but also from the company’s ability to embrace their
mythical function. Innovations are “motivating rituals” (Busco and Quattrone, 2015, 2017) to the
extent that they can (re)incarnate the foundational myths of the organization.
The paper is structured as follows: Section (II) reviews the literature on the adoption of
management innovations. Section (III) describes our research design. Section (IV) presents our
case study findings. The last sections (V) discusses these case study findings before drawing
conclusions (VI).
II. The Process for Adopting Management Innovations
A management innovation is a new process, method, technique, or tool that it is expected to modify
an organization’s management processes, administrative systems, or social structure (Daft, 1978;
Damanpour and Aravind, 2011). Management innovations transform the way managers make
decisions and supervise people, significantly altering day-to-day principles and practices (Hamel,
2006; Volberda et al., 2013). Many management innovations have originated from the field of
accounting. They include total quality management, just-in-time production, quality circle, cost
accounting, 360-degree feedback, beyond budgeting, activity based costing, and the balanced
scorecard among others.
The innovative character of an innovation is inherently empirical. A management innovation is
considered as such if the profession and managers concerned by the innovation portray it as
innovative. Although global performance is not a new idea, many experts and practitionners
consider integrated reporting (IR) as an innovative, and potentially disruptive, new form of
corporate reporting (see de Villiers et al., 2016; Simnett and Huggins, 2015; Deloitte, 2015; PWC,
2015). If implemented, IR forces the top management of each organization to “think (long term)
about their business model, how they create value and to whom, material issues, risks and strategy
together which gives integrated reporting the potential to effect change” (Adams, 2015, p. 24).
Many academics, policy makers, and practitioners have been attracted by the ability of IR to
embody multiple capitals simutaneously (Coulson et al., 2015; McElroy and Thomas, 2015). This
ability means that IR could potentially be used by organizations to account for the value they create,
not only for shareholders but also for all stakeholders i.e. including society and future generations.
Yet IR is also a contested innovation that emerges in a context of high expectations and defiance,
notably because of the lack of specific indications regarding what an integrated report should be
(see Flower, 2015; Thomson, 2015; Brown and Dillard, 2014). The popular and challenging
character of IR makes it particularly useful for enhancing our understanding of management
innovation adoption processes. If adopted, IR is likely to trigger significant change both in the
organizations that adopt it and in the field of corporate reporting more broadly.
There is plentiful research as to why organizations become aware of and interested in management
innovations. Explanatory factors can be categorized into three groups. Firstly, organizations may
be pushed to examine a management innovation by their environment. Such pressure comprises
competition (Waweru et al., 2004), governmental change (Lapsley and Wright, 2004), peer-pressure
(Ax and Bjørnenak, 2005), and fads (Abrahamson, 1991; 1996), among others. Secondly,
organizations may contemplate an innovation because of the operational benefits the innovation
is expected to bring. Innovations can help improve profits (Davis and Albright, 2004; Ittner et al.,
2002), decision-making processes (Cooper and Kaplan, 1992), or customer satisfaction (Busco et
al., 2006). Thirdly, organizations may adopt an innovation because individuals inside the
organization support it (Green, 2004). Sponsors may include top management or middle managers,
depending on the organizational structure (Abernethy and Bouwens, 2005; Cavalluzzo and Ittner,
2004; Brown et al., 2004).
An organization’s motives for examining an innovation are therefore numerous and most likely
interlinked (Busco et al., 2015). The question of why companies are attracted by IR is no exception.
Organizations adopt IR for a variety of reasons, including to improve corporate reputation and
meet stakeholder expectations (Contrafatto and Burns, 2013; Higgins et al., 2014; Steyn, 2014).
Many companies see IR as an opportunity to tell their own story (Beck et al., 2017; Higgins et al.,
2014; Lodhia, 2015), to better showcase their strategy (Dey and Burns, 2010; Higgins et al., 2014)
and to manage their strategic positioning (Beck et al., 2017). For others, IR is viewed as a means
to demonstrate their ethical commitment or to build on their tradition of transparent social and
environmental reporting (Lai et al., 2016; Lodhia, 2015).
Although the literature has analyzed the “why” of the adoption process, there is little research on
“how” management innovations are assimilated. We barely know how an organization evaluates
and makes sense of an innovation (Zbaracki, 1998; Ax and Bjørnenak, 2005; Modell, 2009), and
how this influences its adoption process. Yet management innovations are rarely adopted as “off-
the-shelf” solutions but instead require organizations to actively incorporate them in their day-to-
day practices (Ansari et al., 2010). Revealing such an assimilation process is a difficult task that
requires prolonged engagement with the field and direct access to practices, and such ethnographic
involvement is not easy to obtain. What happens once organizations have shown interest in an
innovation therefore remains largely unresearched.
That said, some scholars have started to explore the process through which organizations
appropriate management innovations, particurlarly in the field of accounting (Busco and
Quattrone, 2015; 2017; Lorino et al., 2017; Mouritsen and Kreiner, 2016). Researchers all point to
the unfolding aspect of the adoption process. As organizational members experiment with novel
accounting and control techniques over an extended period of time, different innovations are
bundled together before being re-combined into “innovation packages” (Modell, 2009), which are
then routinized (see also Reay et al., 2013). The adoption of an innovation is therefore rarely purely
“technical”, but is a “production” process that has more in common with “invention” and
“fabrication” (Power, 2015; Preston et al., 1992; Modell, 2009).
Busco and Quattrone (2015; 2017) have introduced the concept of “motivating ritualsto describe
how the adoption of new accounting inscriptions creates a space in which organizational actors
can engage in a process of interrogation and re-invention. A motivating ritual is “a recurrent path
of actions that aids the construction and sustainment of beliefs with the possibility of figuring out
the right solution to organizational issues and concerns without, however, fulfilling this promise.”
(2017, p.6) The authors show how a provisional budget, cost cards, and a balanced scorecard
provided an Italian fashion company with an arena to continuously re-define, question, and pursue
its imagined account of a value that was durable and tenable what they call “sustainable value”
(Busco and Quattrone, 2017).
Management innovations such as accounting inscriptions act as “rhetorical machines” that sustain
motivating rituals through two mechanisms (Busco and Quattrone, 2015; 2017). Firstly,
management innovations instil a desire for improvement among individuals inside the organization
because they are imperfect. Secondly, they create a pathway for completing the unfinished
definitions of innovativeness they convey by being incomplete. According to the authors, the
values pursued by the Italian fashion company they studied became tenable because this durability
was in fact neither fully defined nor incarnated, in either the organization’s accounts or in a perfect
More than twenty-five years ago, Hatchuel and Weil (1992)
had already noted the power of
“rational myths” in fuelling change a finding recently rediscovered by neo-institutional scholars
(cf. Hallett, 2010; Labatut et al., 2012) and sociologists of valuation (see Beckert (2016) on how
fictional expectations shape imagined futures). A rational myth is a “narrative that proposes a
collective meaning that simultaneously communicates the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic.
(Hatchuel, 1998, p. 187, our translation) While appealing to the imagination, rational myths
mobilize a language that resonates with the actors and employs a narrative that appears logical. The
role of rational myths is to stimulate and motivate actors to engage in cooperative action in pursuit
of a collective purpose (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992; Hatchuel, 1998). Management innovations appeal
For the English translation of this work, see Hatchuel A, Weil. B. (1995) Experts in Organization, a Knowledge-
Based Perspective on Organizational Change (trans: Librecht L). Studies in Organization: Innovation, Technology and
Organizations. Walter de Gruyter, New York.
to rational myths as “systems possessing both the mobilising properties of the myth and the
operating properties of reasoning.” (David, 2013).
Motivating rituals, rhetorical machines, and rational myths are all concepts that indicate the
generative and productive power of human imagination. Myths, however, bear unique features
(Harari, 2015). Myths are transcendental. They relate humans to a superior force that provides
aspiration and guidance. Myths are also metaphysical. They are concerned with the first principles
and ultimate grounds of existence of a practice, an organization, or life. Current research has begun
to show the role of “motivating rituals” in the adoption of management innovations (Busco and
Quattrone, 2015, 2017), but we still know little about how organizations can adopt management
innovations whose existence seems to be purely mythical.
III. Research Methods
Research Setting
The organization under study, referred to as “Gama”, is a medium-sized multinational company in
the consumer goods sector, headquartered in Europe. Gama is recognized as a pioneer in the field
of corporate social responsibility. The company was founded many years ago with the aim of
pursuing a “dual economic and social project.” This dual project is embedded in the company’s
corporate culture and strategy. When we started the field study at the end of 2010, the dual project
remained the company’s “bible” for its human and social relations.
In late 2010, Gama considered joining the IIRC pilot program, after having been pointed towards
this innovation several times by the A4S network and an external stakeholder. An integrated report
is a concise communication tool about a company’s value creation process through six capitals
(IIRC, 2013). The most important differentiating principles for an integrated report as defined by
the IIRC are connectivity, materiality, and future outlook. Gama had already implemented several
social and environmental accounting initiatives, such as carbon and water accounting, and
considered IR to be the logical next step. In September 2011, the company finally enrolled as a
pilot company in the IIRC program. It then launched an internal project to build a shadow
integrated report as an initial move towards an official integrated report, which was eventually
published in 2016. The shadow report tested the idea internally and defined what the official 2016
integrated report should look like. It can therefore be considered as a “mock” report that tried
ideas and new processes related to the new practice. From 2012 to spring 2014, the IR project was
put on hold due to economic difficulties. It was relaunched in 2014 and in 2015 Gama produced a
sustainability report, which acted as a springboard to the first integrated report in 2016. The same
person, the Nature CFO/CSR director, was responsible for the IR project throughout the process.
Data Collection
The IR adoption process described in this article is based on a seven-year ethnographic field study
(2010-2017) (Schouten and McAlexander, 1995). Data sources include (participative) observation,
interviews, and documentary evidence (Tables 1 to 3).
Insert Tables 1 to 3 about here
The first researcher began her involvement as an insider and engaged in participative observation
(Spradley, 1980; Jorgensen, 1989) from November 2010 to July 2012 (with two full-time periods
totalling twelve months). The researcher was a full-time employee of Gama when the IR project
was introduced and was authorized to use the data she collected for academic purposes.
the supervision of the main CFO, she acted as a Nature controller” and reported to the Nature
CFO, the executive responsible for the IR project (Figure 1)
The Nature CFO was in charge of the carbon accounting project from 2009 to 2014, which
involved creating an entire environmental accounting system from scratch to report company-wide
results of CO2 emissions externally. When the IR project was raised at the end of 2010, the Nature
CFO was the natural recipient of the project as the CFO considered it to be naturally a finance
project. In a nutshell, the Nature CFO was in charge of inventing Gama’s “sustainability
accounting” of tomorrow. The researcher was responsible for launching the internal shadow
integrated report project. This responsibility included giving presentations to the Nature team,
benchmarking existing integrated reports, participating in the IIRC pilot program, and working
with an external consulting firm.
Insert Figure 1 about here
The first researcher was also responsible for conducting a series of workshops on the desired
format for the shadow report with participants from communications, strategy, investor relations,
risk, and finance. The twelve meetings pertaining to the project were audio-recorded, and lasted a
total of 26 hours. During that time, over 100 documents were collected, ranging from PowerPoint
presentations, meeting minutes, and email exchanges to pilot program documentation. As is
common with reflexive ethnographic approaches (Golden-Biddle and Locke, 2007; Whyte, 1943),
the first researcher wrote a detailed diary describing key events and interactions. In 2012, the
second researcher (third author), was invited to attend several meetings as a silent participant.
From July 2012 to July 2013, the first researcher’s involvement changed from insider to close
outsider of the project. Although the project had been put on hold, the first researcher stayed
connected to the field. During the period 2012-2013, she participated in informal discussions with
the Nature CFO and in two formal meetings in April and May 2013. Themes discussed included
how to relaunch the project and how to present the shadow report work to the IIRC pilot meeting
in June 2013. In June and July 2013, the research team conducted interviews with the project’s
participants. The interviews focused on their impressions of the process of producing an integrated
report, the use of accounting and new key performance indicators, the impact of integrated
This was obtained through a doctoral agreement between the researcher, the doctoral school, and the French Ministry
of Research and Education (CIFRE).
The Nature general management was in charge of the environmental management strategy and programmes, to infuse
nature everywhere in the organization.
reporting on their job, the strategy employed, and collaboration between departments. All
interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim.
The first researcher’s involvement then further evolved and she became an outsider from 2014 to
2017. All researchers were now outsiders, participating in critical IR meetings as non-participant
observers, collecting further documents such as PowerPoint presentations and meeting minutes,
and conducting further interviews in 2014 and 2015. The first researcher was able to regularly
interview the CSR director (former Nature CFO) from the project relaunch through to the 2015
intermediate sustainability report and the first integrated report in 2016.
A meeting was held between the researchers and the core integrated reporting team in June 2015,
deepening our understanding of the final stages of the project. Finally, the first researcher was
invited to attend the presentation of Gama’s integrated report to the IIRC country group in
November 2016. She also stayed in touch with the CSR director and the sustainability reporting
manager until April 2017 to gather their impressions and feedback on the integrated report
following its publication. Throughout the second and third involvement periods, the team kept
extensive notes of their fieldwork to further document the case (Lincoln and Guba, 1985).
The evolving nature of our ethnographic involvement allowed us to experience the adoption
process of IR from the inside, as well as sustain a longitudinal view of the process via (non-)
participative observation and interviews over seven years. Our ability to study the same company
over several years through both observation and interviews is key to unravelling the mechanisms
of IR adoption, a process that would otherwise have been difficult to understand (Cunliffe, 2010).
Data Analysis
Our research design is a form of “naturalistic inquiry” (Garud et al., 2002; Lincoln and Guba, 1985)
that relies primarily on abductive reasoning (Mantere and Ketokivi, 2013; Lorino et al., 2017). Our
theoretical approach is problem-driven rather than paradigm-driven (Davis and Marquis, 2005). In
problem-driven research, questions emerge from the field and researchers answer them using
theoretical paradigms.
Problem-driven research aspires to reveal the mechanisms through which a social phenomenon
unfolds. Mechanism-based theorizing is particularly suitable for understanding complex and
emerging collective situations. It helps researchers uncover how relations and interactions form a
“wheelwork producing a social outcome” rather than looking for “universal laws” (Davis and
Marquis, 2005, p. 337).
Through our ethnographic approach, we sought to uncover the IR adoption process at Gama,
taking into account its culture, its practices, and the meaning it attaches to IR (Cunliffe, 2010). We
aimed to understand the mechanisms through which Gama made sense of IR. We were particularly
intrigued by the organization’s ability to adopt an innovation that seemed to have only an imaginary
existence. This “theorized engagement” enabled us to understand “accounting in action” through
the construction of reporting (O’Dwyer and Unerman 2016, p. 39; see also Hopwood (2009) and
Gray (2002)).
All interview quotes have been translated into English.
In contrast, questions arise from theories in paradigm-driven research.
We worked via an iterative process, alternating between data collection and reflections on the
evolution of the IR adoption process at Gama. Our (non-)participative observation enabled us to
contextualize our interview data, while our interviews shed further light on our observations,
allowing us to confirm, refute, or supplement our data (Guénin et al., 2015). In addition to serving
as a data source, our detailed field diaries and extensive notes were also important in helping us to
translate the data and craft Gama’s story (Lincoln and Guba, 1985).
The aspiration that drove Gama’s organizational actors during the IR project had been on our radar
since the early days of our fieldwork, being a recurring factor observed, discussed, or noted down.
In the fourth year of our engagement with Gama we conducted a three-day work session on the
project during which we revisited the data we had collected from the beginning of the project. We
came to the provisional conclusion that Gama’s interpretation of IR contained a mythical aspect
that appeared to shape the company’s approach to the process. We then concentrated our work
on further exploring and confirming this interpretation (Guénin et al. 2015).
Throughout our data collection, we conducted focused coding” of the documents and transcripts
assembled. We used Atlas.ti software to identify relevant emerging codes (Charmaz and Belgrave,
2002, p. 321) that reflected the words used by our informants (Gioia et al., 2010; Van Maanen,
1979). The software helped us to structure our analysis, while the coding remained the
responsibility of the research team. Meanwhile, we wrote detailed narrative summaries (Langley,
1999) that chronicled important events at Gama during its IR adoption process. We regularly
confirmed their appropriateness by sharing them with Gama’s Nature CFO. In the last stage of
our analysis, we used axial coding (Strauss and Corbin, 1998) to identify relationships between the
emerging codes identified in the focused coding and theoretical concepts.
In addition, we kept up to date with developments in the IIRC’s work throughout our fieldwork
to ensure that we understood the case in light of the broader institutional context (Ball and Craig,
2010). In addition to triangulating our different data sources and recording all meetings and
interviews, we ensured the trustworthiness of our findings (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) by presenting
our interpretation of Gama’s IR journey to the CSR director, who supported our analysis. When
presenting our findings, we selected excerpts from interviews, observations, and our experiences
to articulate Gama’s story (Cunliffe, 2010; Kornberger et al., 2011).
This ethnographic involvement is summarized in Figure 2 (inspired by Schouten and McAlexander,
Insert Figure 2 about here
IV. Findings
The following sections set out Gama’s IR adoption process from 2010 to 2017. For ease of reading,
Figure 1 provides an organigram of the Nature team in charge of the IR project, Figure 2 offers a
chronological account of the main events, and Figure 3 provides a chart of the key actors involved
in the project.
Insert Figure 3 about here
Meeting Integrated Reporting
In 2007, Gama embarked on a major project for measuring and reducing its CO2 emissions. Among
its initiatives, the organization developed its own internal carbon accounting tool with the aim of
reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2012. External stakeholders refused to certify the tool,
prompting a legitimacy crisis that called into question the company’s strategy of building
environmental accounting internally.
To avoid future problems resulting from major discrepancies between their practices and external
certifications, the Nature CFO asked a Nature controller (the first researcher) to scan the field and
review all sustainability accounting initiatives. This is how the notion of IR was first brought to the
attention of the Nature team at the end of 2010. Concurrently, the company’s CFO was also
approached by Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) and invited to participate in its meetings. He
appointed the Nature CFO to represent Gama: “[Name of CFO], quite logically, turned to me and
said ‘It’s interesting. I think we have all we need at Gama to progress in this type of project. Go
have a look.’” (Nature CFO, July 2013)
In July 2011, a participant at a key stakeholders meeting held at the company, who was involved
in the IIRC’s development efforts, suggested that integrated reporting could be a good fit for the
company. Following the meeting, the Nature CFO and the Nature manager decided that the
company would join the IIRC pilot. This decision was subsequently approved by the CFO and
made official in September 2011 when the company joined the pilot group. The Nature CFO
attended the first IIRC pilot meeting in Rotterdam in October 2011, where she was introduced to
the idea of <IR> as formulated by the IIRC. Investors were present, and one of them referred to
the CFO’s sponsorship of the Nature department as an example of best practice in the adoption
of integrated reporting.
Although the company had officially begun its IR journey, the project had yet to be accepted and
developed internally. The first step was to get the Nature team on board. To that end, the Nature
finance team,
composed of two controllers and the Nature CFO, gave a presentation to the
extended Nature team in January 2012. The Nature CFO presented the potential adoption of IR
as a challenge that would create aspiration:
Real integrated reporting, the one everyone is thinking about and that we don’t really
know how to implement. You’ll see, it’s a bit of an abstract concept for now. No
one has managed to do it so far.
(Nature CFO, January 2012 meeting)
That meeting triggered many questions from the Nature team on the meaning of IR: was it triple
bottom line? Were Novo Nordisk or Siemens good examples of integrated reports? Very quickly,
the Nature team agreed that Gama had “everything in place” to launch an integrated report.
Making Sense of Integrated Reporting
From the outset of the project at Gama, the idea of IR and Gama’s existing efforts seemed a natural
fit and were envisioned as a compass:
Our quadruple win [the compass see Figure 4] is integrated reporting. What we’re
doing with the compass and KPI identification is integrated reporting. (…) We need
The Nature finance team was created to put in place environmental accounting and accountability within the
Emphasis is ours. This applies to all quotes.
to draw a connection with the major work we are doing on sustainable agriculture
we’re inventing KPIs for each aspect as we go: Nature, Economic, Social, and Health.
(Nature manager, January 2012 meeting)
Insert Figure 4 about here
The first internal stakeholders
to discuss the IR project welcomed integrated reporting as a way
of presenting to the external world what they had always been doing internally. In their social
imagery, they viewed their long-standing strategy of a dual social and economic project as
distinctive, and IR was therefore a way for them to showcase the corporation’s uniqueness. This
sentiment slowly started to create pressure to prepare a “perfect” integrated report, which would
“truly” reflect how integrated Gama was, in order to be “faithful” to their idea of IR.
The Nature team was certain that their story was a tight match with what integrated reporting
“should” be – something very different from early endeavours, and very different from the IIRC
discussion paper from 2011. Notably, they questioned the emphasis on monetization (the
Environmental Profit & Loss from Kering was considered an <IR> example by the IIRC), and
the investor-focus chosen by the IIRC. The Nature manager and the Nature CFO also wanted to
go further than the integrated reports published prior to the IIRC’s launch of its framework.
framework brought disenchantment to Gama since it clashed with its aspirations for IR:
You have to show why you set those objectives for yourself and why they’re
important for the business. It turns out it’s very driven, I’m pretty disappointed. It’s
very driven by the investor world. There’s a total lack of vision. (…) Honestly, it’s
not very interesting; we’re not going to do that. (Nature manager, January 2012
After that first internal meeting, two further meetings between the Nature manager, the Nature
CFO, and the CFO were scheduled in February and March to validate the decision that the
company would use integrated reporting in the future. The presentation contained an <IR>
definition, <IR> key elements, examples of integrated reports including Gold Fields, Natura, and
Novo Nordisk, and the work plan for the shadow integrated report project, as well as its
Once the project had been validated by the CFO, the development of a “shadow” report was
launched internally in May 2012, with a consulting firm supporting efforts to develop it. The Nature
finance team organized a first set of meetings in June and July 2012 with key internal stakeholders
in order to design a first IR “shadow” report. The strategy, finance, CSR, investor relations,
communications, and health teams and the risk manager were among the internal stakeholders
invited. The project was to sketch out the report with prior data and to showcase it for the purpose
of co-opting more people to the project. Five meetings were organized on the design, online
content, KPIs, and materiality/transparency. The consulting firm helped facilitate the meeting and
brainstorm each of the topics beforehand and to collect a first set of data on which to build the
shadow report. The extent of the work required to implement the IR innovation was recognized:
The first internal stakeholders included the Nature team, the sustainability reporting manager, and one
communications manager.
These include Novo Nordisk and Akzo Nobel, for example, or the IRs published in South Africa under the King
III Report from 2009.
Anyway, there will be limitations everywhere. We just need to invent something.
It’s the goal of the exercise. (Nature CFO, project launch meeting May 2012)
The collective action toward IR implementation occurred through defining and redefining the
company’s integrated report according to the internal stakeholders’ understanding of IR and its
potential for helping to achieve the firm’s dual project:
If you switch the exercise around and you think otherwise, and you speak about
[Gama] our specificities, our issues you write your roadmap. (...) Basically, you
start from our story, and after, you create the sections [of the mock report]. (1st
workshop, June 2012)
Some elements of the report were then discussed and agreed upon, but not before being
conceptualized and reconceptualized. For instance, in the design workshop, the two structures
proposed for the future shadow report were considered insufficiently ambitious as they were too
generic (Communications manager, 1st workshop, June 2012). The communications manager
thought of an alternative structure based on the upstream-downstream value chain model that
would cover the company’s four business divisions:
My second point is that, if we look at the group’s current strategic issues, there are
some things that are very typical of [Gama]. I find the idea of a [value] chain moving
downstream for our four divisions to be a potential structuring element. (…) As for
integration, it is completely integrated. (…) So there is a whole approach that is very
typical of [Gama]. (Communications manager, 1st workshop, June 2012)
The conversation continued with respect to how this value chain blueprint would help make
connectivity a reality in the future shadow integrated report:
For example, you can take the agricultural issue and look at it from the environmental
or financial angle the volatility of commodity prices is a major financial issue. How
will we respond to this through the structuring of your chain? In other words,
considering things from a fully integrated point of view. (1st workshop, June 2012)
An entire workshop was dedicated to looking at key performance indicators and how to build
“integrated” KPIs. The “unmeasurable” and “soft” aspects of Gama’s strategy were debated:
Right now, we’re on the People axis. Afterwards, we’ll suggest a few things and see
if they’re measurable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s across the group or just for the
CBU [Country Business Unit]. It’s a measure, and we’ll see if it’s feasible afterwards.
(4th workshop, June 2012)
No, it can be quantitative. It’s quantitative in relation to your ecosystem, despite not
being ‘what does this do for you directly.’ It’s a soft benefit. But there are a lot of
soft benefits. It inspires pride in employees, they tell themselves ‘this is great, we’re
doing stuff. I’m in [Country], I’m doing stuff for the rag-pickers,’ and so on. There
is an engagement interest for [employees]. There is a reputational interest,
considering local stakeholders, governments, and so on. (4th workshop, June 2012)
In multiple external events, workshops, and reports, integrated reporting was presented as the
future of reporting. After all the sustainability accounting initiatives the company had developed
and implemented to be consistent with its strategy and culture (notably in terms of carbon
accounting), organizational members believed integrated reporting would be the natural next step.
The IR initiative was seen as having the potential to reveal internal endeavours in sustainability
accounting, something that had not been accomplished externally at that point, although
participants felt the company was already very close to producing its ideal view of an integrated
You’re completely right - the foundations are already laid at [Gama], since
everything is integrated. However, there’s no integrated report. So we’re only
working on the way to communicate all that, but we’re lucky. (1st workshop, June
Organizational participants believed the dual project set them apart by integrating social and
economic concerns into their operations. Talking about the specificities of the management model
and how to incorporate them into the integrated report, one participant said:
That is to say how societal innovation, at [the company], is fully integrated into the
business and how it transforms the way we do business, our businesses and our
organizations. It's kind of how we work the [IR] trick, it's right to the point there,
the integration of responsibility is at the heart of the business. (1st workshop
At the same time, there were also discussions on the different items requested by the IIRC
framework, notably the “future outlook,” which appeared to be a fuzzy topic to report on:
Investor relations manager:
(…) Then, what do you say about the future outlook? What would you say today?
Nature CFO:
You mention a number of partnerships you lead. (…) I think we currently make
insufficient use of R&D, but there’s a lot of content we can use to help.
Investor relations manager:
Alright, but that’s not a tangible outlook; that’s not 20-year goal material. (1st
workshop, June 2012)
Throughout their discussion and work, IR was conceived as a desirable, although vaguely
operationalized, innovative practice:
The difficulty is that it is a rather innovative project in terms of substance. The study
we did shows that there is nothing known as an integrated report anywhere. So
the exercise is innovative in itself. (Shadow Report, end of project July 2012 meeting)
By mid to late 2012, multiple internal stakeholders had joined the report development process
(Figure 3). These actors discovered connections to the integrated reporting project that enhanced
their own work, or surfacing or latent issues in the various entities, such as attempts to enhance
well-being and health capital accountability through integrated indicators. Through exchanges and
discussions, stakeholders realized how much content was already available for building an
integrated report. It was like having pieces of a puzzle without the image: the company had to
(re)build and (re)define the ultimate picture of global performance they wanted to achieve via IR.
What was a bit surprising was that, through different means, everybody had inputs
for the integrated report, without having put a name on it. It is as if, intuitively,
everyone was trying to work in the same direction, and we came to put a name
on it. (Shadow Report, end of project July 2012 meeting)
Being a Pilot of the IIRC
Parallel to the project being introduced at Gama in early 2012, the IIRC started to convene online
meetings for pilot organizations to talk about the different elements that should constitute an
integrated report. The Nature team felt that the IIRC was becoming too insistent and inquisitive
about pilot organizations’ internal processes on their integrated reporting journey. Team members
had the impression that they had to show “compliance” with the IIRC framework. The IIRC asked
whether it could show Gama to other pilot reporters as a model, but Gama refused.
Meanwhile, the Nature CFO started to express fears about the rhythm at which the IIRC expected
feedback on the project, particularly through interventions at the webinars and through feedback
forms that had to be completed regularly. She felt that Gama needed time to develop its own IR
and the pressure and rapidity of the pilot was a major put-off for an organization at the beginning
of its IR journey, trying to make sense of what IR meant.
At this stage, Gama decided to step back from the pilot. It became a passive participant and focused
on building its own project to create a “shadow integrated report.The Nature manager expressed
doubts as to whether the work started via the IIRC would align with the company’s way of
developing an integrated report. In several email exchanges, the Nature manager tried to capture
the essential links between the IIRC view and what Gama would consider, while noting the main
differences where Gama was not ready to compromise.
Internal stakeholders involved in the IR project at Gama had developed some understanding and
perception of what the IIRC expected in terms of <IR>. To a certain extent, this understanding
clashed with their emerging conception of IR. This led the company to question several key features
of the <IR> framework in its own conceptualization and reconceptualization of IR.
For example, although the IIRC had initially advocated a single report that would replace the
others, it changed its position between the initial 2011 release and the final 2013 framework
(Flower, 2015; Rowbottom and Locke, 2016). Gama advocated the opposite:
We support the development of the framework, however this must not mean the
development of an extra standard, it must integrate all existing reporting work,
whether on finance or sustainability. (Official response to the IIRC 2011)
Gama also strongly disagreed with what they perceived as the pre-eminence of the investor as the
primary audience of <IR>, and the goal of <IR> to mainy help the investor in its capital
Our target for the integrated report isn’t just the investors, it’s all the
stakeholders. () If we do this exercise, it is not just to make things easier for
investors. I have been to two IIRC meetings, and they are very much driven by the
world of investors. (Sustainable development reporting manager, July 2013)
Gama emphasized its dissent in comment letters to the different IIRC drafts, in 2011 as well as in
2012: This exercise cannot be limited to showing investors the economic effect of
management's decisions on non-financial matters, even if we acknowledge the importance of this
goal. (Official response to the IIRC exposure draft, 2012) Underlying this concern for
stakeholders, the Nature CFO explained she was concerned that this investor focus would not
adequately reflect the dual nature of their project, i.e. its social and economic aspects. <IR> that
favours one stakeholder over all others was a construct that clashed with the company’s
understanding of IR as a multi-value (dual project) and multi-stakeholder concept.
The Nature manager and the Nature CFO disagreed with the notion of a single form of value
dominating all others, a conclusion agreed with by the project’s internal stakeholders. They
criticized the fact that “value” in the IIRC view (as they perceived and understood it) was solely
You understand what the guy is saying when he talks about value, he is talking about
the economic value. That is why they want to make indicators that show that caring
for the environment is good for the P&L [Profit and Loss], that dealing with people
is good for the P&L, that caring for orangutans is good for the P&L. (Nature CFO,
Similarly, Gama opted to use its own version with four types of capital rather than the six capitals
conceived by the IIRC. The four types of capital included a “well-being and health” capital that
was key to the company but that was not highlighted by the IIRC.
The communications manager
also questioned the fact that the IIRC portrayed all capitals to be of equal importance. She
explained that Gama’s “people” capital could not be considered equal to its manufacturing capital,
for example, since “people” were a foundational element of Gama. In fact, Gama’s “human
capital” (people) possessed several key elements (including the specific culture of the company)
that made it more critical, richer in dimensions, and more complex to report than, for example, its
manufacturing capital.
Gama also considered that the IIRC financialized social and environmental impacts too much. For
certain impacts, this seemed inappropriate or unwelcome, so the company challenged and resisted
At [Gama] we do not necessarily see monetization as the preferred solution for
evaluating environmental issues. We believe that the right data can be integrated within
a business even if they remain physical measures. Therefore, unless necessary and
possible for decision-making purposes (for example evaluating the impact of a possible
carbon tax in certain countries, etc.), there is currently no plan to go for extended
monetization because we believe that it does not improve integration, nor does
it improve decision-making processes. (Official response to the question on
monetization, mid-term report, 2012)
Other companies have adapted the six capitals framework to suit their business model, such as Vivendi with its
“cultural capital.” See
So I think there will be different units. We will need to educate in order to make
decisions based on different types of units. I think for the social and environmental,
there will be different indicators and we will have to deal with it. I do not think that
everything could be translated into euros. (Nature CFO, 2013)
Putting a Break on Integrated Reporting
After seven months, the integrated reporting project stalled. Gama announced an extensive layoff
plan for its European entities. The company shed 900 managers as part of the 200 million euro
cost reduction plan it announced in December 2012. The simultaneous announcement of sales
growth of only 5.4% in 2012, lower profitability, and the wide-reaching layoff was a milestone in
the company’s recent history (Le Figaro, 2013). Both externally and internally, the dual economic
project had hit a roadblock and was challenged:
Suddenly, you wonder whether [Gama] is making good strategic decisions,
whether we’re spending too much time focusing on the ecosystem, on [Gama]
Communities, perhaps to the detriment of purely business-oriented choices. You
realize that these are two completely different worlds. (Communications manager, July
Some even felt that the company’s dual project had been damaged, or at the very least put on hold.
This was the case for the Nature team, which was working on a new version of the sustainability
strategic planning process, called Nature 2020. The team was upset when the plan was put on hold
because of the economic challenges faced by the company.
We heard about it at the new year wishes ceremony [from the CEO address to the
employees], that we needed to know when to work the slider [i.e. agreeing to shift the
focus from balancing economic and social aspects to placing economic over social].
It’s very frustrating for us. We worked hard on this Nature plan, and it’s a shame
to think that we have something ready that we aren’t releasing. (Environmental
reporting manager, July 2013)
Clearly, Gama was struggling to keep its dual project afloat. In parallel, the sustainability reporting
team and the Nature team were severely affected by the lay-offs and resources were scarce. The
difficult economic context weighed on the teams, who had to concentrate their energies elsewhere.
The Nature CFO felt it was not the right time to make things happen. Despite the challenges, she
kept “faith” in the IR project. She held informal meetings about the way to relaunch the project.
She continued to engage with the IIRC pilot, and presented some of the progress made on the
shadow report in June 2013. The consulting firm continued to gather information to build the
shadow report, or pieces of it. However, internally, it was difficult to develop the project into an
actual integrated report:
I feel like the validity of IR is not being questioned; everyone just accepts it. I didn’t
discuss it directly with [the CFO], but the general consensus seems to be that we have
to go for it as it were. Now, I don’t know if it will be a priority right away, and
with which resources. (Environmental reporting manager, July 2013)
Relaunching Integrated Reporting
In early 2014, the Nature CFO transferred from a Nature role to a sustainability role (CSR director)
and moved simultaneously from a finance hierarchy to a human resources one. She had been
advocating a move from an environmental accounting role to a sustainability accounting role that
would include social and societal accounting for some time since she believed this was the right
next step in her career, building an expertise in non-financial accounting.
The move was made possible after the 2013 lay-offs and reorganizations. The IR project was easier
to relaunch when it became possible to replace the sustainability report with an integrated report
thanks to the former Nature CFO’s new position. In her former role as Nature CFO, she had no
direct responsibility for financial or sustainability reporting, but gained responsibility of the
sustainability reporting channel when she became CSR director. Nevertheless, for the IR project,
she still reported to the CFO, who was a long-standing supporter of the idea of developing an
integrated report at Gama.
In March 2014, as the pilot had ended and the IIRC framework had been published (IIRC, 2013),
the integrated reporting project changed direction within the company. The CSR director hired a
considered highly knowledgeable in integrated reporting and got new people on board
from the “social” side of business.
The project had been on hold for 18 months by the time it
restarted (from late 2012 to spring 2014). This time lag accentuated the pressure the team felt to
get IR “right. They had been thinking about these ideas for so long, their report had to reflect
their commitment.
With IR returning to the forefront at Gama, reflexivity and discussions also resurfaced. The
company continued to move away from the <IR> concept of IR. The company’s main intention
was to keep its specificity and stay true to itself through its own vision of IR, while performing
some integrated reporting in its own way:
In my view, the notion of increased reporting, I think it is something that seems
useful because it allows us to loosen our grip on the concept of integrated
reporting and at the same time allows us to characterize exactly what we want, in other
words to complete, to enrich. (2nd consultant)
After all the questions and challenges that the company’s dual project had faced during 2013, the
IR project was viewed as a way of reaffirming Gama’s genuine concerns for sustainability, both
internally and externally. “We feel that we must make the structure of this [Gama] 2020 plan fit
with our integrated report.” (CSR director,
June 2015 meeting) When asked what the company
had learned from its involvement with the IIRC, the CSR director answered:
What remains is making the intellectual effort to concretely explain [Gama]’s dual
project. What we are experiencing, how we make decisions, how we very intuitively
and naturally connect the four points of our compass, and how to explain all that. I
think the initiative is great for that. (CSR director, June 2015 meeting)
Real Life Integrated Report
He was the first consultant but had changed firms between the beginning and the end of the IR project.
The Nature CFO was responsible for environmental topics. When she moved to the position of CSR director, she
became responsible for “global performance”, including social issues. She was able to include people from branches
dealing with issues such as poverty and employment in the supply chain.
From now on, the Nature CFO will be referred to by her new function, CSR director.
Further to the shadow report work and the Nature CFO’s reassignment as CSR director, it became
possible to probe integrated reporting in “real life.The next step for the CSR director’s team was
to work on an initial modified sustainability report covering 2014, which was subsequently
published in 2015. They designed improvements to the report that they would build on in
converting their reporting to IR. The published report had a revised structure, adopted the new
included a materiality matrix for the first time, and contained elements of extended
transparency such as environmental aspects where the KPIs had weakened. Rather than following
the IIRC framework,
materiality was defined according to the GRI guidelines, inclusive of all
stakeholders’ concerns:
To us, materiality is the conjunction, the meeting between issues that impact society,
our environment, and our ecosystem. (CSR director, June 2015 meeting)
The internal stakeholders were fully aware that they had not yet reached integration, but that fewer
reconceptualizations remained before they reached the goal of publishing their first integrated
So it’s an in-between report, and we announced long ago that the next thing would be
integrated reporting. It’s around 30% we don’t know how to do it, but we’ll do it.
(CSR director, June 2015 meeting)
As planned, the project was pursued until the publication of a first public integrated report in 2016.
In mid-2015, the CSR director’s team had not yet decided on a label for the next report, and was
looking at a name other than “integrated report” as a way to distinguish Gama from the IIRC.
Finally, when the 2016 report was published, the CSR team in fact opted to label their report as an
“integrated report” for strategic reasons. They felt that this label would bring visibility to their
report and facilitate its recognition. Given the lack of external recognition that their carbon
accounting tool had obtained, they believed that naming their report as integrated while defining
its content in their own way was the safe way to go.
Despite being titled “Integrated Report,” the report was significantly different from existing IR
reports. It did not refer to <IR> or its framework, such as the capitals, or its business model. As
collectively envisioned, the integrated report addressed all stakeholders (as opposed to giving
primacy to investors), especially in the videos that were made to deliver the message that the
company’s dual project was the driver for the way business was conducted:
And I think that the funnel of deciding you’re starting from a strategy, a mega strategy
(…). And you go down through a corridor that’s divided into four topics that are
distinct but linked together, that explain the logic to you and end up bringing you
something tangible. (CSR director, May 2016)
Before that, Gama followed the GRI G3.1 in its sustainability reporting.
The IIRC (2013, p.18) defines materiality as: “information about matters that substantively affect the organization’s
ability to create value over the short, medium and long term” whereas GRI (2013; p.17) defines materiality as
reflect[ing] the organization’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or [s]ubstantively
influenc[ing]the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”
The CSR director emphasized that their mode of presentation was intended to communicate their
strategy concretely. The digital format, with heavy use of videos, was meant to be informative:
But I think it’s a very good idea to be able (…) to connect this to very concrete on-
the-ground examples that cover all countries in the world. (…) With actions from
the field. So that’s great, because it means any country can see what’s being done
elsewhere. (CSR director, May 2016)
Nevertheless, the CSR director and the sustainability reporting manager were disappointed by some
aspects of the report they published. They felt they could have done “much better” (Sustainability
reporting manager, December 2016) had they had more time and resources to build the report.
This disappointment with respect to the connectivity of their report derived from the pressure the
team had been putting on themselves to produce a “perfect” report.
It produced a tool that was designed to show… (…) the way things are connected
together, and right now it’s not showing it. Not quite, anyway… I thought it
over from every angle, and I think it’s a bit utopian. I think it’s very complicated
to show that everything is connected while at the same time being able to explain
the social and ecological issues at stake… in a way, you have to separate them a bit,
or else you won’t be able to explain them because they are different aspects not
different things but rather, different aspects of a single thing. (CSR director, April
One of the biggest hurdles Gama still had to overcome was identifying the right “integrated” key
performance indicators, especially for the societal aspects of sustainability such as human rights, or
the impact of social programs within its supply chain. Despite prior attempts, the company’s efforts
were unproductive:
When I started doing meetings for integrated reporting and I talked as if it were new
we will find KPIs that will make links between things [the social business
] told me he had been trying for a long time, but he could not find
[them]. [The sustainable development reporting manager] said the same thing.
(Nature CFO, May 2013)
When they published their first integrated report in 2016, the CSR director told us what was still
missing: “more quantitative data. A lot more. For the examples, on the one hand. And on the other
hand . . . integrated KPIs, you know. I wasn’t dreaming. I knew it just wasn’t possible.” As she
noted (CSR director, June 2015): “Anyway, and this is the trial-by-fire part on which we’ll need to
work: the holy grail of this thing will be the integrated indicators.
V. Discussion
Although it is not our intention to argue that IR is actually a divinity (to use our interviewee’s
terms), we suggest that IR displays the characteristics of a “rational myth” (Hatchuel and Weil,
1992; Hatchuel, 1998), i.e., an aspirational story whose purpose includes reflecting on, and
systematically accounting for, the pursuit of a collective goal. In the present case this goal was to
Gama has developed specialized branches in social business,” working directly with its supply chain to develop
sustainable communities.
report on “global performance” (Chauvey et al., 2015; see also Solomon and Darby, 2005). This
characterization of IR influenced the way actors embraced the management innovation, leading to
some incarnation of the myth. We describe this process below.
Reflecting on the Journey: Adopting a Mythical Management Innovation
Embracing the rational myth
Rational myths are rooted in a vague understanding of the ultimate accomplishments of collective
action, i.e., a result that must be achieved within an organization (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). They
embody both a symbolic representation of the objective to be achieved, as well as a rational account
of how and why this objective should be pursued.
The fact that internal stakeholders at Gama perceived IR as a myth from the outset gave them the
freedom and confidence to try and to invent new things since, according to them, nothing had
existed beforehand. Through its aspirational appeal, the mythical dimension was instrumental in
giving credibility to the process of adopting the rational myth, which was to be achieved collectively
(Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). Gama’s organizational actors envisioned IR as an emblematic and
abstract concept that was yet to be concretized and they were transported by the potential it offered
to show the company in its “true” light.
While the mythical dimension of IR was instrumental in getting Gama’s organizational participants
on board with the project, the debates surrounding the project’s operationalization quickly focused
on its rational dimension. Although aspirational by nature, for a rational myth to spur collective
action the myth’s innovative appeal should appear to be a logical objective to pursue (Hatchuel and
Weil, 1992; Hatchuel, 1998). The idea of integrated reporting brought about by the IR myth was
welcomed by Gama mainly because it resonated deeply with its own foundational myth, the “dual
project.” Organizational participants believed this dual project set them apart by integrating social
and economic concerns into their operations. The links and connections organizational members
made between IR and their corporate culture, strategy, and sustainability accounting suggest that
the IR myth made sense, enabling organizational participants to get on board with the project.
Incarnating the rational myth
At the core of these symbolic and rational dimensions lies an “introspective discrepancy”
(Hatchuel, 1998, p. 189, our translation) between what the rational myth conveys and the thinking
about that same rational myth. This enables organizational actors to debate, conceptualize, and
reconceptualize the intricacies of the myth (Hatchuel, 1998). Likewise, Gama explored the
introspective discrepancies between the institutional requirements associated with IR reflected in
large part by the IIRC model and its own vision of global performance under IR (Hatchuel, 1998;
Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). The process of engaging in collective action resulted in learning, defined
as the ability of all mobilized actors to transform their ideas and conceptions based on their
conversations and exchanges with other actors (Hatchuel, 1998). Discussions included the format
and content of the envisioned report. This learning served to define and redefine the myth through
the thoughts and reflexions of the various actors participating in the collective action.
Introspective discrepancy ultimately enables rationalization, a dynamic process in which “concepts
attempt to incarnate themselves, to take shape, or to uncover shape” (Hatchuel, 1998, p. 187, our
translation) in Gama’s case, the publication of an integrated report. Given Gama’s long-term
engagement with sustainability and social responsibility, “all” that supposedly remained for the
company to do when it embarked on its IR journey was to (re)define how it envisioned
communicating its dual project to the external world in an integrated report. But Gama’s journey
towards its initial incarnation of the IR myth did not unfold without problems.
The company took over five years to bring its myth to life with further (re)definitions of the
myth and its underlying report to come. The complexity of its dual project along with intense, self-
imposed pressure to “get it right” led to multiple (re)definitions of the potential incarnation of the
myth. It appeared that the gap between the IR myth pursued and its rationalization in the form of
an integrated report was widened by the company’s economic difficulties, creating additional
challenges for the incarnation of the myth. The IR myth eventually became a way to reaffirm the
company’s dual social and economic strategy and to consolidate its shaken organizational culture.
In an incarnation process, it is likely that the distance between the myth and its incarnation will not
be fully overcome (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). We witnessed this at Gama: while happy to reach the
publication stage, organizational participants were aware of the limitations of their report compared
with their conceptualization of the IR myth. They felt they had not reached the level of integration
they had hoped for and continued to reflect on integrated KPIs. The distance between the myth
pursued and the process to be transformed via collective action may in fact explain some of the
difficulties inherent in incarnating the myth (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). Ultimately, some incarnation
took place, with more redefinitions required for them to be “true” to their vision of IR.
Transition conditions
Although further research is needed to confirm the following assumptions, we suggest two
conditions for an organization to embrace and ultimately incarnate, to a certain extent, a
management innovation whose existence seems mainly imaginary. We refer to these two conditions
as faith and the presence of an introspective discrepancy infrastructure.
Firstly, the managers involved in the IR project had “faith” in IR. They knew from the beginning
that the aspirational nature of IR meant that they would need to invent certain elements. The
foundational myth of the organization, referred to as the dual project, instilled confidence among
organizational actors that the IR myth could be embraced and ultimately incarnated. From their
perspective, an integrated report could be authentic only if the strategy was already integrated,
which was the case for Gama. This faith in the IR myth became especially important during the
period of turmoil faced by Gama in 2013 and 2014. While the company had profound doubts
about the aims it should pursue questioning the foundational myth of the organization both
the Nature CFO and the CFO maintained their belief that Gama had to pursue the myth of IR in
the future. Other managers also remained convinced of the validity of IR for Gama despite the
project being on hold. This faith helped the firm keep the IR project dormant despite the difficulties
encountered and to revive it when the timing was right. Their faith was so significant that IR was
eventually mobilized to reaffirm the firm’s dual project its foundational myth through the
publication of its first integrated report. The faith displayed by the actors ultimately helped Gama
to overcome some of its challenges and to communicate its dual culture and related
accomplishments externally.
Secondly, the company provided individuals with an organizational structure that favoured
introspective discrepancy. Gama set up numerous meetings with representatives of various
departments (including finance, strategy, sustainability, health, human resources, communications,
and risk) to foster collective exchanges at the organizational level. Such interactions are a key
feature in the pursuit of collective action and are necessary for generating the mutual forms of
learning essential to the (re)definition of a myth (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992; Hatchuel, 1998).
Together, the internal stakeholders used the discrepancy between their understanding of <IR> and
their vision of a mythical IR to shape their integrated report. Following the economic downturn
and the questioning of the dual project, the changes made to Gama’s organizational structure (with
the Nature CFO gaining responsibility for sustainability reporting in her new CSR director role)
allowed the company to renew this introspective discrepancy by both reviving the project and
involving additional managers. These newcomers brought their experience of the organizational
culture and their own vision of IR to the subsequent (re)definition of the myth, enabling Gama to
move further away from the IIRC’s <IR>.
Our experience and understanding of the field lead us to believe that the economic difficulties
faced by Gama put the IR project at a crossroads. IR could have either ended or continued. As
exposed above, the interplay between the transition conditions and the company’s foundational
myth played a fundamental role in pushing the project forward. Had these conditions and/or the
culture been different, it is possible that IR would not have been envisioned as a rational myth.
Similarly, while the presence of the Nature CFO/CSR director was significant, our analysis suggests
that her influence was not as fundamental as the role played by the organizational culture and the
transition conditions in the (extent of) incarnation of the myth. The dual project, the faith in IR,
and the introspective discrepancy infrastructure were experienced by all organizational participants.
IR helped the organization imagine a new future (Busco and Quattrone, 2015, 2017; Beckert, 2016)
and maintain its foundational myth alive while strengthening it by reflecting on the type of value
creation it wanted to pursue.
In light of their own IR myths, there is no assurance that competitors, investors, analysts, or NGOs
would consider Gama’s report to be a proper illustration of IR or of what corporate reporting
should be. For instance, Gama’s IR approach is not comparable with other companies, a feature
that is often required by external stakeholders. Furthermore, our case comes to an end after the
first integrated report was published. Gama recognized the need to develop integrated performance
measures but, like other organizations, it had not worked out how to do this (Stubbs and Higgins,
2014; Steyn, 2014). As is the case for IR, Gama’s incarnation of the myth will continue to evolve.
Reflecting on Integrated Reporting
The adoption process we describe above enriches previous research on integrated reporting on
several levels. Firstly, it demonstrates that integrated reporting is mythical in nature. This mythical
nature is tied to the promise of global performance reporting that IR conveys, a promise that social
and environmental accountants have been trying to fulfil for decades (e.g. The Corporate Report
(ICAEW, 1975), Corporate Social Accounting (Estes, 1976), ICAS’s report on Making Corporate
Reports Valuable (ICAS, 1988), Gray’s ACCA report “The Greening of Accountancy(Gray,
1990), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2000), and the Connected Reporting Framework
(Accounting for Sustainability, 2007)). Since the inception of the IIRC, this mythical nature has
been fuelled by the intense debates and multiple ambiguities that the movement has spurred
(Adams, 2015; Atkins et al., 2015a; Brown and Dillard, 2014; Coulson et al., 2015; deVilliers et al.,
2014; Flower, 2015; Reuter and Messner, 2015; Thomson, 2015; Tweedie and Martinov-Beenie,
2015). Envisioning IR as a rational myth implies that multiple modes of incarnation are possible,
with varying portrayals of global performance. The introspective discrepancy between the concept
and what it is meant to represent rests at the core of these multiple incarnations (see e.g. Van
Bommel (2014) and Atkins and Marroon (2015) for different interpretations of the IR myth).
Although rare, some examples of incarnation modes are described in the literature. Beck et al.
(2017) demonstrate how a financial service firm strategically employed IR to foster integration
within the firm and organize its reporting in accordance with its strategic positioning. This
legitimacy-driven approach is likely to constrain how the firm reports on its global performance
(O’Donovan, 2002). Lodhia (2015) shows how a customer-owned bank built on its ethical values
and cooperative ownership structure to concretize its vision of the myth. Its reporting was
grounded in a practical understanding of IR. While its values and ownership were likely to
encourage broad accountability, the practical, rather than aspirational, vision of IR promoted by
the bank coloured the portrayal of its global performance.
Likewise, Gama partially managed to
incarnate the myth through the aspirational appeal it conveyed and the associated desire it fuelled
to appropriately inform the outside world of its dual social and economic culture. The company
went through multiple (re)definitions of the myth, guided by combining its dual project and its
vision of IR but constrained by the team’s self-imposed pressure to publish the right IR. The
team eventually managed to bring its integrated report to life while being aware that it had not
fully materialized all the connections underlying the company’s global performance.
Secondly, the study shows the importance of myths in transforming business (reporting) practices.
The power of the IR myth’s symbolic dimension to rally Gama’s troops around the reporting goal
resonates with arguments set forth by Christensen et al. (2013).
These authors argue that, given
the uncertainty surrounding the nature of social responsibility and the ways of achieving it (not
dissimilar to the ambiguity surrounding IR), a temporary gap between corporate talk and actions
can motivate a transformation towards the aspirations conveyed in the talk, pushing the
corporation to implement better social responsibility (reporting) practices. In other words, [w]hen
companies start talking about something, a productive narrative starts in which company members
are triggered to address inconsistencies between actual and idealized realities” (Graafland and Smid,
2016, p.30). Christensen et al. (2013) refer to this phenomenon as performative aspirational talk.
According to these authors, such performativity is most likely to yield positive outcomes when a
corporation makes a public commitment (e.g. joining the IIRC pilot program) on a high profile
issue (e.g. IR).
We witness this performativity in Gama’s journey actors were transported by the aspiration to
integrate their reporting in the same way that Gama’s corporate culture integrated social and
economic issues. They eventually transformed their reporting practices in an attempt to move
towards this goal although they did not fully close the gap between their reporting aspiration and
their reporting practices. A potential explanation for this partial incarnation of the myth resides in
Onkila and Siltaoja (2017). They argue that the push towards better practices (present in the
discrepancy between talk and action) might be insufficient to trigger change if the applicability of
the proposed practices is deficient in the adopting organization. In Gama’s situation, the challenges
lie in implementing integrated social KPIs and the representation of connectivity the CSR
director even mentioned that she knew it was “impossible”, a “utopia.
Cho et al. (2015) express doubts that a gap between talk and action has the potential to be
aspirational. While Gama’s partial incarnation may appear to be consistent with these authors
views, our findings suggest that acknowledging the mythical dimension of a management
In some respect, Atkins et al. (2015b) and Stent and Dowler (2015) also reflect different incarnations of the myth.
We are indebted to an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out.
innovation might (to some extent) counterbalance such concerns. First, embracing the mythical
dimension of an innovation helps motivate and provide direction to the organizational actors
(Christensen et al., 2013). The IR myth favoured reflexivity and encouraged the pursuit of an
imagined future at Gama. It concurrently helped gather distinct, but consistent, individual efforts
regarding the dual social and economic project under the broader IR myth. Second, it helps trigger
actions towards transformation (Graafland and Smid, 2016). Adopting the IR myth brought
different organizational members together to (re)define IR and translate Gama’s dual strategy into
its reporting practices, something it had failed to accomplish satisfactorily in the past because it
lacked a common transcendental goal. Last, it helps achieve some level of transformation (Hatchuel
and Weil, 1992): Gama’s faith in IR gave it the courage to publish an integrated report grounded
in its own understanding of the mythical innovation, departing from its prior reporting practices,
from existing integrated reports, and from the IIRF. This transformation has the potential to
generate further motivation for change, as demonstrated by Gama’s awareness that its IR journey
is not over. Nevertheless, we concur with Cho et al. (2015) that further research is warranted on
the practical implications of this transformation.
Lastly, conceptualizing IR as a rational myth also has implications for the future of <IR>.
Consistent with the sustainability accounting field, IR appears to be a complex, multidimensional,
and antithetical notion (Bourguignon, 2005; de Villiers et al., 2014) and much more than the simple,
all-inclusive, and consensual notion that most observers attribute to the IIRC’s vision. The
introspective discrepancy present in the myth is likely to make it difficult to standardize IR
disclosures and to make them comparable. Consequently, ambiguities in the IIRC model are often
perceived as spaces to be customized and adapted by each adopter, and might also have the
unintended effect of generating different interpretations of what the IIRC promotes. As seen in
our study, these ambiguities might even drive some dissatisfied organizations away from the
movement the IIRC is attempting to stimulate and the leader the IIRC aims to become (see
Humphrey et al., 2017).
Reflecting on the Adoption of Management Innovations
Previous research has demonstrated the key role of motivating rituals in the adoption of
management innovations (Busco et al., 2015; Busco and Quattrone, 2015; 2017). Accounting
inscriptions, in particular, tend to trigger change through the search process they fuel (Busco and
Quattrone, 2017). The incompleteness and lack of perfection of accounting inscriptions create the
space for individuals to look for better. We expose how, as rational myths, management
innovations may serve as an “essential detour” (Hatchuel, 1998) to galvanize internal stakeholders
into action and ultimately lead to the pursuit of collective goals (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992).
We enrich research on management innovations in three ways. Firstly, we demonstrate that for the
motivating rituals to be effective, individuals need to be provided with an introspective discrepancy
infrastructure or in other words a “ritual infrastructure” that helps them reflect and realize their
aspirations. The search process is time consuming, difficult, and unpredictable. Gama wanted to
give up on several occasions. What made the individuals pursue their dreams was their deep faith
in the IR myth they wanted to incarnate. Although inherently individual, this conviction was
nurtured by the organization. Gama not only offered them the space to share their vision of IR but
it also instilled hope that these visions could become real. Based on these findings, we believe that
the incompleteness and imperfection of management innovations are probably not enough for
such innovations to be adopted, even if individuals have strong faith in the myth. What is also
needed, according to our results, is an organization’s ability to collectively practice its organizational
Secondly, we propose that adopting a management innovation whose existence seems imaginary
by nature probably requires organizations to connect the motivating rituals to their own
foundational myths. We show the importance for the company’s foundational myth to be aligned
with the mythical dimension of the management innovation. This implies that a company whose
foundational myth is not aligned with the myth conveyed by the management innovation might
find it difficult to adopt the management innovation. An organization that deeply believes in the
maximization of shareholder value but that disregards global performance would probably find it
hard to pursue IR to account for the value created for all stakeholders. The visions of the world
sustained by these two concepts of performance are quite different. Acknowledging that both
visions are mythical probably provides room for change. The question then becomes: Under which
conditions would such a company agree to pursue another myth?
Lastly, we enrich previous institutional theory research by expanding the meaning of myths. To do
this, we elaborate on the differences between “rationalized” and “rational” myths (Berglund and
Werr, 2000). Meyer and Rowan’s 1977 seminal paper on rationalized myths was clear as to what
“rationalized” embodied (see Hallett, 2010 for a recent overview). The myth related to economic
markets belief in the superiority of rationality and norms as a means to maximize economic
performance. The authors explained that companies in the post-industrial era were forced to
implement formal structures to appear efficient and value neutral. Pursuing the rationalized myth
implied placing a premium on objectivity, coordination, and standardization and the pursuit of
economic performance often understood as shareholder value maximization. The development
of a vision of accounting as standardizing, neutral, and economic-driven was concomitant to the
incarnation of the rationalized myth (Miller and Power, 2013).
We believe that the rationalized myth as envisioned by Meyer and Rowan (1977) is intrinsic to most
existing business (reporting) approaches and management innovations alike. Management
innovations are often adopted in the belief that they will help maximize profits, in one way or
another (Zbaracki, 1998). We contend that the rational myth attached to IR by Gama could be the
myth of tomorrow’s practices. IR was not adopted by Gama on the premise that it would help
increase shareholder value but to expose how Gama creates broader value(s) for all stakeholders.
Such a transformation is difficult to achieve, however. It requires the company to question what
are probably the strongest and most influential foundational myth in management, around which
business practices are constructed. Indeed, the evaluation and institutional infrastructures attached
to companies are based on rationalization and shareholder value maximization. As a result, it seems
extremely difficult to convince a company to pursue global performance rather than financial
performance if its foundational myth is attached to the second.
In addition, management innovations such as IR do not necessarily comprise ready-to-use
“efficient” and “rational” formal structures that would allow organizations to copy existing
standards i.e. accounting inscriptions aligned with the rationalized myth (Miller and Power, 2013).
The Global Report Initiative (GRI), for instance, provided companies with metrics that mirrored
financial ones (Etzion and Ferraro, 2010). The absence of rational formal structures that could
favour analogical reasoning with financial reporting is probably one way in which IR distinguishes
itself from other management innovations. Gama not only had to invent a new way of working, it
also had to find the courage to depart from its competitors. Gama’s decision to depart from the
IIRC framework and to offer a new type of reporting was a risky decision for which it could be
sanctioned (as was the case for its implementation of carbon accounting). Whether Gama’s
incarnation of IR will encourage other companies to embrace this new myth therefore remains to
be seen.
One of the most powerful myths shaping today’s management practices is certainly that of
“shareholder supremacy” the myth according to which the ultimate goal of business
organizations is to maximize shareholder value. There is clear evidence that neither the legal nor
the financial systems comprise such requirements, yet corporate reporting continues to favour
shareholder value at the expense of global performance, leading most management innovations to
pursue the maximization of financial performance (see Stout, 2012 and PRI, 2015 for reviews).
Despite the importance of (shareholder supremacy) myths in the adoption of management
innovations, research into the workings of these myths is scant. Our longitudinal ethnographic
study of the adoption of IR is a first step towards such understanding. It provides an opportunity
to further explore the imaginary function of management innovations and to initiate a reflection
on the potential of corporate reporting to offer alternative myths to that of shareholder supremacy.
VI. Conclusion
We used an ethnographic study of a multinational consumer goods company to investigate how an
organization adopted integrated reporting. Drawing on Hatchuel’s rational myth (Hatchuel, 1998;
Hatchuel and Weil, 1992), we show how the organization embraced the mythical dimension of IR,
and the consequences that followed. This conceptualization acted as a springboard for IR adoption
and implementation. Its mythical dimension was reflected in the promises of IR’s potential
accomplishments in light of the firm’s own foundational myth.
The rational myth of IR served as an “essential detour” (Hatchuel, 1998) that galvanized internal
stakeholders into action and ultimately led to several (re)definitions of the ideal concept of IR
(Hatchuel and Weil, 1992), with future (re)definitions to come. The introspective discrepancy
between the IR concept and its translation by the IIRC, along with managers’ faith in the project,
allowed the firm to challenge and debate elements of the IIRC approach and ultimately to
(re)conceptualize and implement its own version of an integrated report. Our endeavour to explain
the process through which the organization attempted to incarnate a rational myth led us to
consider new forms of accounting that would favour organizational individuation over
Taken as a whole, our study helps to provide a better understanding of how reporting is
constructed. We do this by adopting a theorized engagement” approach (O’Dwyer and Unerman,
2016, p. 39) to portray “accounting in action”, leading to the conceptualization of IR as a rational
myth and the exploration of its ramifications. This approach also enables us to introduce Hatchuel’s
rational myth as a relevant lens for studying non-financial reporting, responding to the need for
theoretical development in sustainability accounting research identified by Unerman and Chapman
Our ethnography nevertheless represents a single field engagement with the adoption of IR. Work
is needed to examine whether the adoption process we unveiled can be found in different
organizations and/or institutional contexts. While we exposed the way in which the adoption
process of a mythical innovation unfolded, future research is certainly warranted to explore the
different ways in which motivational rituals may unfold and to determine whether other rational
myths share the same specific features as the one we studied.
The concept of rational myth (Hatchuel and Weil, 1992; Hatchuel, 1998) could be useful for
understanding other phenomena of interest in sustainability accounting, beginning with
sustainable development itself. The definition of the Brundtland Report offers a vague, although
desirable, objective to be achieved, akin to a myth. An aspirational dimension certainly underlines
this definition, one that motivates the collective action of sustainability accounting scholars. The
introspective discrepancy between how sustainable development is imagined and reflected upon
leads to its rational dimension where current attempts to (re)define the sustainable development
myth occur (Laine, 2005; Tregidga et al., 2006; Gray, 2010) and will most likely continue to occur
in the future.
After seven years in the field, we are convinced that IR is indeed a myth. Accepting the mythical
nature of IR helped us understand why <IR> and the IIRC have sparked so many debates. Myths
are complex, thought-provoking, and popular. But myths are also imaginary and whimsical. They
are questioned and criticized for appealing to beliefs rather than to science. Once we acknowledged
this, factors that previously appeared to be problems suddenly became parts of the solution. What
is unattainable indeed speaks not of what can be pursued.
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Table 1: Participative Observation Meetings
Type of Meeting
IR presentation to Nature team
IR project launch meeting
IR project launch meeting with
consulting firm
1st workshop
Meeting on web pilot
2nd workshop
3rd workshop
4th workshop
5th workshop
July meeting between sustainable
development reporting manager and
Nature CFO (+consulting firm)
July meeting between sustainable
development reporting manager and
Nature CFO (+consulting firm)
Final meeting with internal stakeholders
1,566 (26 hrs)
Table 2 Non-participative Observation Meetings
Type of Meeting
IR meeting
IR meeting
IR meeting
IR meeting
IIRC French Group (presentation of
Gama IR)
440 (7.3 hrs)
Table 3 Interviews at Case Company
Sustainable development reporting
Communications manager
Investor relations managers
Environmental reporting manager
Strategy manager
CSR director (former Nature CFO)
CSR director (former Nature CFO)
CSR director (former Nature CFO)
CSR director (former Nature CFO)
Sustainability Reporting Manager
discussions not
CSR director (former Nature CFO)
444 (7.4 hrs)
Figure 1: Nature team
Figure 2: Ethnographic Involvement based on Schouten and McAlexander (1995) (Part 1)
Figure 2: Ethnographic Involvement (see Excel file) based on Schouten and McAlexander (1995) (Part 2)
Figure 3: Internal Stakeholders in the IR Process
Nature team: the environmental department mandated to support the development of the
environmental management plan.
Health team: the health team is in charge of managing certain aspects of the company’s products.
Figure 4: The Four Capitals (also called the “Compass”)
(Source: Gama internal presentation, reproduced with permission)
... One specific context of voluntary adoption of integrated reporting that has been addressed by empirical studies is that of the organizations that participated in the IIRC pilot program. For example, Dragu and Tiron-Tudor (2013) analyzed the impact of external political, cultural, and economic factors on the decision of organizations in different countries to participate in the program; Gibassier et al. (2018) documented the process of adopting integrated reporting in a pilot organization; and Arora et al. (2021) examined how the pilot experience has changed preparers' perceptions of integrated reporting. ...
... However, combining a sustainability report with the management commentary or the full annual report can be an intermediate step before producing an integrated report (IIRC 2011). Empirical evidence suggests that prior experience with sustainability reporting also facilitates the transition to integrated reporting (Gibassier et al. 2018;Gunarathne and Senaratne 2017;Nwachukwu 2021) and the development of "integrated thinking" (Rossi and Luque-Vílchez 2021). ...
... As it is a voluntary practice, the cost-benefit ratio will be decisive in its adoption. Although the implementation of integrated reporting could be less costly for companies that already disclose a lot of information and have experience in sustainability reporting (Gibassier et al. 2018;Nwachukwu 2021), it may reveal proprietary information to competitors, which is also "costly" (Veltri and Silvestri 2020). The costs involved and its voluntary nature in most countries leads many companies to postpone the implementation of integrated reporting (Bananuka et al. 2019;Soriya and Rastogi 2021;Velte 2021). ...
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Integrated reporting is essentially a voluntary practice worldwide. For this reason, although it is growing, its diffusion is slow. Based on the Portuguese context, where a reduced number of listed companies publish integrated reports, this study aims to explore the drivers and barriers for the voluntary adoption of integrated reporting and the reporting practices up to the production of an integrated report. To this end, an analytical framework based on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory was developed and applied to data collected from a survey and corporate reports from both “adopters” and “non-adopters”. The evidence collected suggests that the adoption of integrated reporting may be driven by the perception of a relative advantage over traditional reporting in terms of providing more relevant information to capital providers, particularly banks. The publication of an integrated report appears to be the result of a process of incremental improvements in the practice of disclosure and assurance of non-financial information, so that the previous experience with sustainability reporting is also an important driver for voluntary integrated reporting. Finally, companies may be differently prepared for transition to integrated reporting and, therefore, have different perceptions of its cost and complexity, which may act as a barrier.
... The calculation is about details of names, forms, aid amounts and even the quantity of gifts by which everything is valued. The recipient's assessment responsibility transactions are stored as dependents in future, then for the giver it is a record of giving which is expected in future (Goreti et al., 2013;Gibassier et al., 2018;Kamayanti & Ahmar, 2019;Prasetyo, 2021). This relationship is a form of unity in pairs of expectations. ...
... The basis for recording material for giving nyogug is only as a means of creating an atmosphere of kinship and cooperation. As Harry Yuswandi stated as the followng: A standardized ceremony, as Rizal (2014), Gibassier et al., (2018), Thompson & Morgan (2020) and Sari (2020) explains, creates togetherness without distinction. The goal is to please together, because by pleasing the neighbors there is inner satisfaction which is very relieving. ...
... Binding is a necessity as recognition to signify that expenses is binding so that expenses can be recognized (booked) (Suwardjono, 2016). The provisions of this economic substance as research results Gibassier et al., (2018), Kamayanti & Ahmar (2019), Ahmad (2020), Hummel & Horisch (2020), Al Masum & Parker (2020), Thompson & Morgan (2020), and Prasetyo (2020;2021). They state that the motivation to record all obligations that arise when the transaction occurs even though it is not legally stated (contractual) as a social bond. ...
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This qualitative research on pendhalungan etnososiology aims to reveal nyogug cultures. Cultural tradition helps the wedding feast as a sacrificial unit of present and future economic resources that are certainly to be returned because of social agreement. This atmosphere makes social unearned revenues. Therefore, nyogug cultural tradition becomes an analytical tool. Data were collected through participant observation. The result of this research shows cultural tradition is social unearned revenues recording unity of revenue and expenses. So, measuring it at time of acquisition is also for expenses when it’s incurred. A situation that provides the development of recording transactions based on fairness and equity based on togetherness, as a business entity recognizes revenue and expenses as one. For both of these requirements is the future sacrifice of economic resources. Conditions to bind continue or to become obligatory until satisfied as unearned revenues to economic and physical benefits, revenue and expenses must also be measured and recognized when the nyogug activity occurs. Thus, the measurement of these two accounts at the time of acquisition is also for expenses when incurred.
... Le principali critiche riguardano l'effettiva attuazione dei principi di IT, ostacolata fino ad oggi dall'assenza di linee guida e dalla vaghezza della definizione del concetto (Feng et al., 2017, p. 348;Dumay et al., 2017), con <IR> che viene percepito come un processo molto lungo e complesso, che necessita di un «fedele coinvolgimento del management» (Gibassier et al., 2018, p. 1368) e di attività di benchmarking per comprendere le corrette modalità di rendicontazione di alcuni aspetti (Gibassier et al., 2018(Gibassier et al., , p. 1362. ...
... Anche le variabili "governance" e "connettività" (80%) hanno ottenuto valori elevati: la prima conferma il necessario coinvolgimento delle figure apicali per l'implementazione di <IR> nell'organizzazione (Gibassier et al., 2018), la seconda, i benefici dello sviluppo dell'IT per una migliore connettività delle informazioni nei report (VRF, 2021). Valutando le azioni di correzione strategica in seguito all'analisi dei risultati, la variabile "feedback dei risultati" (74%) conferma la connessione e integrazione tra sistemi di reportistica e strategia (Molinari et al., 2021) e il legame rinforzante tra IT e sistemi di controllo (Dimes and de Villiers, 2020). ...
... Le variabili con le peggiori valutazioni, "prospettive" (46%) e "trade-off di breve e lungo termine nei capitali" (43%) possono essere spiegate dalla scarsa propensione degli utilizzatori a rivelare informazioni potenzialmente critiche a livello concorrenziale (Di Vaio et al., 2021) e nell'attività di benchmarking tra le organizzazioni (Gibassier et al., 2018), che potrebbero essersi influenzate reciprocamente, creando di fatto degli standard di reportistica più bassi. Ciò potrebbe limitare alcuni benefici di <IR>, come il focus sul lungo termine (Vitolla et al., 2019) e la relativa comprensione del ruolo dei capitali (Herath et al., 2021). ...
This study aims to provide insights into the managerial implications of the adoption of Integrated Reporting ( ) and the strategic involvement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As regards to the research design, content analysis is used to investigate a sample of s. The sample consists of the reports of seven basic materials companies for two fiscal years (2018-2019). Two sets of variables were developed to evaluate the level of integrated thinking and SDGs' strategic involvement in the sample. An elevated level of integration between disclosures and business strategy supports the academic debate on the benefits of integrated thinking. On the contrary, the empirical research indicates that the involvement of SDGs in business strategy is very low. Nevertheless, sustainaiblity issues are one of the main themes of the reports analysed, and there is an improvement in 2019 results compared to 2018. This study contributes to the debate on the managerial implications of the process: a scoreboard is developed to evaluate the integrated thinking components form an external point of view. Keywords: Integrated Reporting; Integrated thinking; Sustainable Management System; Sustainable Development Goals; Content Analysis; Scoreboard.
... Relying on the malleable and ambiguous nature of IR (Gibassier et al., 2018), this study extends empirical knowledge of how a global innovation in accounting practice characterised by pragmatic ambiguity can contribute to its institutionalisation in a local site. Our study also contributes to a larger body of research focusing on diffusion and adopting new innovative accounting practices internationally (Ax & Greve, 2017;Chiwamit et al., 2017). ...
... This flexibility allows companies to be aspirational and adapt it in practice function because IR allows for "an imaginary future which stimulates more tailored accounting practices" (Busco et al., 2018(Busco et al., , p. 2222. Thus, there are persistent calls for research into how report preparers adapt IR. Gibassier et al. (2018) demonstrate how the ambiguity of IR allows companies to embrace and reconceptualise it at the organisational level so that individuals can embrace IR as an ideal. Rinaldi et al. (2018Rinaldi et al. ( , p. 1307 add to Gibassier et al. (2018) by arguing that realising the full potential of IR lies in aligning its aspirational features "with the company's foundational (or current) socio-economic vision". ...
... Gibassier et al. (2018) demonstrate how the ambiguity of IR allows companies to embrace and reconceptualise it at the organisational level so that individuals can embrace IR as an ideal. Rinaldi et al. (2018Rinaldi et al. ( , p. 1307 add to Gibassier et al. (2018) by arguing that realising the full potential of IR lies in aligning its aspirational features "with the company's foundational (or current) socio-economic vision". Thus, IR's ambiguity is an attribute that can help companies to adapt it in different contexts. ...
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In 2013, the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) released the integrated reporting (IR) framework to become the corporate reporting norm. Ten years later, IR has not been diffused globally, with two notable exceptions – South Africa and Japan. IR in South Africa has been the subject of comprehensive research, but we know little about IR’s journey through the political and cultural dualism of Japan. We see adaptation as an essential step in institutionalising IR, and for this reason, we have examined the process of adapting IR in Japan by analysing the stages through which local actors have rationalised IR to solve local corporate governance and reporting problems. Our evidence from field observations, public documents, and interviews reveal five stages of political, cultural and professional rationalisations. These shape a mutual adaptation process. Through rationalisation, we unveil how the ambiguous global idea of IR has been transformed in Japan into a local solution and an institutionalised practice aligned with the local business culture. At the same time, local actors have adapted their reporting and communication practices to the ideology of IR. By embracing the notion of rationalisation, this study enriches the theory of how the powers and motivations of social actors mediate and shape adaptation. What emerges is compatibility between accounting innovation and the local context.
... In similar situations, inadequate norms and the absence of legislation prevented accountants from providing environmental performance data (Laine et al., 2017;Senn and Giordano-Spring, 2020). The lack of a clear understanding of how to approach integrated reporting has led to diverse conceptions of integrated reporting across organisations (Gibassier et al., 2018). Arora, Lodhia, and Stone (2021) discovered that accountants' competence in corporate reporting, understanding of the assurance process, in-depth understanding of an organisation, as well as their analytical and interpersonal abilities were beneficial when writing an integrated report. ...
Purpose: The purpose of the study is to examine the potential of Integrated Reporting (IR) adoption by a city council through the identification of its enablers and challenges. Design/Methodology/Approach: The study utilised a qualitative interpretative case study of a city council that has the potential to pioneer IR adoption among local authorities. Data collection involved in-depth interviews as well as document analysis. Findings: Findings from this study indicates that IR, which was originally seen as a private sector initiative, has relevance and application to public sector organisations. Challenges faced by the respondent to implement IR is the lack of knowledge on how to prepare the IR in tying together numerous aspects that can meet the requirement of information usefulness to stakeholders. The lack of benchmarking cases for reference and limited information on the cost involved in IR adoption are acknowledged as challenges Training, management support and innovative culture are considered IR enablers at City Council ONE. Research Limitation: This study is exploratory in nature as a single case study is used, and City Council ONE has not adopted IR. Practical Implication: Identifying challenges and enablers is important for city councils to assess their readiness prior to adopting IR. The findings could be used as input to the regulators and other public sector entities to facilitate the implementation of IR. Originality/Value: This study is part of a more extensive research on IR enablers and challenges for Local Authorities of Malaysia. Keywords: Integrated reporting, city council, enablers, challenges.
Within the 4.0 paradigm, the disruptive adoption of digital technologies is modifying the way companies develop business and manage the relationships within and across their business environment. Although several scholarly contributions have investigated how digital transformation (DT) and business models (BMs) influence each other, a research gap has emerged regarding the relevance attributed to the DT information disclosed in the section of the integrated reports (IRs) devoted to BM. This research investigates the role that reporters attribute to DT by exploring whether and how companies qualify DT as part of their BM and whether it is considered a purely structural factor or a strategic factor able to influence the relationship with stakeholders and the value‐creation process. Based on a content analysis of 48 integrated reports for the years 2020 and 2021, our research insights qualify DT as a driver capable of generating impacts on companies' ecosystems, although the findings do not reveal the adoption of quantitative and forward‐looking information to disclose the relationship between DT and BM. Moreover, our research provides managerial implication in terms of reporting and communication effectiveness, and it is unique and valuable, as it opens up a new line of research on IR and DT.
Purpose Although accounting and reporting visualisations (i.e. graphs, maps and grids) are often used to veil organisations’ untransparent actions, these practices perform irrespectively of their ability to represent facts. In this research, the authors explore accounting and reporting visualisations beyond their persuasive and representational purpose. Design/methodology/approach By building on previous research on the rhetoric of visualisations, the authors illustrate how the design of accounting visualisations within integrated reports engages managers in a recursive process of knowledge construction, interrogation, reflection and speculation on what sustainable value creation means. The authors articulate the theoretical framework by developing a longitudinal field study in International Fashion Company, a medium-sized company operating in the fashion industry. Findings This research shows that accounting and reporting visualisations do not only contribute to creating unclear and often contradicting representations of organisations’ sustainable performance but, at the same time, “open up” and support managers’ unfolding search for “sustainable value” by reducing its unknown meaning into known and understandable categories. The inconsistencies and imperfections that accounting and reporting visualisations leave constitute the conditions of possibility for the interrogation of the unknown to happen in practice, thus augmenting managers’ questioning, reflections and speculation on what sustainable value means. Originality/value This study shows that accounting and reporting visualisations can represent good practices (the authors are not saying a “solution”) through which managers can re-appreciate the complexities of measuring and defining something that is intrinsically unknown and unknowable, especially in contexts where best practices have not yet consolidated into a norm. Topics such as climate change and sustainable development are out there and cannot be ignored, cannot be reduced through persuasive accounts and, therefore, need to be embraced.
The transition to a circular economy requires accounting for all resource streams in the economy to facilitate the maintenance of these resources at their highest value and utility for as long as possible. In this paper, we investigate the role of resource accounting tools and practices in driving the transition to a circular economy by measuring resource streams and taking measures to promote circularity in those resource streams. In particular, we focus on (1) the role of digitalised resource accounting systems in enabling the identification and reporting of resource streams, and (2) the effect of using such information to incentivize household recycling behavior to promote more circularity in resource streams. Our empirical setting is the development of a digitalised waste management system in Western Norway. Our research design has three empirical pillars: qualitative interviews of managers in the industry, historical data analyses of waste generation and recycling, and two illustrative large-scale natural quasi-experiments on more than 170,000 households' recycling behavior. Our study illuminates the development of the resource accounting system and demonstrates the effect of using resource accounting information to incentivize households' recycling behavior through experimentation with a “pay-as-you-throw” (PAYT) system. Our findings show the manner in which the resource accounting system enabled measurement of resource streams and the use of that resource information to promote circularity among households. Furthermore, our experiments reveal the effectiveness of using resource accounting data for incentivizing recycling behavior. Thus, our study illuminates the role of accounting in the transition to a circular economy.
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Following the scholarly view of accounting as a social practice, this research explores the role of accounting in managers' ongoing efforts to effectively understand and influence organizational change in the course of a series of review meetings. To study the role of accounting in meaning-making processes - i.e. collective processes of ascribing meanings to experienced social situations - we develop a processual and semiotic view of Goffman's theory of frames. Central to the paper's argument is the concept of framing, defined as an ongoing social process of context production in an unfolding situation. In this perspective, accounting numbers are viewed as signs mediating situated interactions. This theoretical framework is applied to complex situations of negotiation between a retailer and sixteen suppliers, under a category management approach. The crucial finding of our research, illustrated empirically, is the plurality of competing frames and the occurrence of frame-shifting episodes, the process by which one frame is suddenly replaced with another frame that has a deeply different way of narrating the situation: this process is triggered by a specific event, and the frame shift has potentially significant effects on practices. The case study highlights the mediating role of frames, and the plasticity and vulnerability of framing processes. It exemplifies the dual nature of accounting numbers in situated meaning-making: they can be viewed simultaneously as generic models - parts of social frames - and singular events - parts of the current situation. Due to this dual nature, they can act as mediators between a singular situation and socially-constructed, generic classes of meaning.
Using data from a government-wide survey administered by the U.S. General Accounting Office, we examine some of the factors influencing the development, use, and perceived benefits of results-oriented performance measures in government activities. We find that organizational factors such as top management commitment to the use of performance information, decision-making authority, and training in performance measurement techniques have a significant positive influence on measurement system development and use. We also find that technical issues, such as information system problems and difficulties selecting and interpreting appropriate performance metrics in hard-to-measure activities, play an important role in system implementation and use. The extent of performance measurement and accountability are positively associated with greater use of performance information for various purposes. However, we find relatively little evidence that the perceived benefits from recent mandated performance measurement initiatives in the U.S. government increase with greater measurement and accountability. Finally, we provide exploratory evidence that some of the technical and organizational factors can interact to influence measurement system implementation and outcomes, often in a complex manner.
Capitalism is an economic and social order oriented toward the future. In this paper, I describe the unfolding of the temporal order of capitalism and relate it to the restless dynamism of capitalism we have observed since the Industrial Revolution. Since the future is open, actors are confronted with the uncertainty of the outcomes of their decisions. What can expectations be under conditions of uncertainty? To answer this question, I introduce the notion of fictional expectations which can be used to describe decisions made under conditions of an open and uncertain future. In the paper's penultimate section, I apply the concept of fictional expectations to the analysis of four crucial processes of capitalism: money and credit, investments, innovation, and consumption. The main thrust of the paper is that in order to understand economic action in capitalism, actors' perceptions of the future need to take center stage. Not only history matters, but also the future matters.
Drawing on a framework of deinstitutionalisation, this study explores the abandonment of budgeting through a multiple-case study of four companies. The findings illustrate how a number of antecedents to deinstitutionalisation acted in each setting and show that abandonment was only achieved through skilful agency by dominant insiders to construct the need and manage for change. In addition, a finding of the study is that two of the four companies reversed the deinstitutionalisation and reintroduced traditional budgeting. This is explained by highlighting the role of remnants of formerly institutionalised practices and by demonstrating the importance of administrative and cultural controls which can support the abandonment of a central accounting control practice in the first place. Overall, this research extends previous studies of deinstitutionalisation by analysing a taken-for-granted practice at the micro-level and by giving a more agentic account of its processes.
The paper contributes to the debate regarding the incompleteness of accounting representations and performance measures by highlighting the role that such incompleteness plays by prompting and sustaining a continuous search for perfection which, however, is never achieved. Thanks to the information collected through a longitudinal case study of an Italian mid-size fashion firm, we illustrate how accounting visualizations offer a visual space that generates productive tensions, which sustain this process of scrutiny, questioning and continual search. Theoretically, we draw on the notion of epistemic objects combined with the findings of visual rhetoric in order to explain the role of the intrinsic incompleteness of accounting representations and the visualizations that are produced and referred to in this continuous process of searching for perfection.