What Accountants need to know about Integrated Reporting: An Asian Perspective

Paia presented a paper on Integrated Reporting at GRI Regional Conference held in Melbourne on 26-28 March 2012.


Paia Consulting was represented by Wong Dan Chi at GRI Regional Conference, Melbourne on 26-28 March 2012.

Dan Chi co-authored and co-presented a paper on Integrated Reporting, together with Dr. Hwang Soo Chiat from Singapore Management University. Two of them were the only representatives from Singapore at the GRI Regional Conference 2012.

Below is an executive summary of the paper presented. For more information on the GRI Regional Conference, feel free to contact Dan Chi (danchi@paiaconsulting.com).

Executive Summary

Introduction

Sustainability reporting is increasingly more sophisticated; and we are now witnessing the development of an Integrated Reporting framework to report both financial and non-financial information meaningfully. Asia has been relatively slower to Europe and US counterparts in the take-up rate of sustainability and integrated reporting.

This study aims to examine the opinions of Asian respondents on the disclosure, valuation, standardization and education of non-financial reporting. In doing so, the study aims to form recommendations to encourage Asian organisations to adopt sustainability and integrated reporting.

Another aim is to present obstacles and opportunities for the accounting profession to keep up with this upcoming trend.

This is the inaugural study, which focuses on Singapore.

There are 46 respondents, out of which 18 come from firms, which have produced or will be producing sustainability report in the next three years.

Disclosure

Non-financial reporting perceived to be important (87%) and useful (85%).

The top reasons for disclosure are:
• Improved reputation/brand (78%)
• Improved stakeholder communication and relationships (74%)
• Identification of areas for cost savings and reduced wastage (61%)

The greatest perceived cost of reporting are the direct costs required to gather information and prepare reports (80%).

Valuation

78% believe that non-financial information should be valued both quantitatively and qualitatively.

74% also believe that is it possible to draw links between financial and non-financial information.

Standardisation

76% strongly or moderately agrees that standardization is necessary, for greater comparability and simplicity for users and reporters. There appears to be a low level of awareness of sustainability reporting standards.

The top two reasons against standardization is:
• Standards tend to be biased towards beliefs of certain countries or industries, even with multiple stakeholder engagement approaches (50%)
• Each country or different stock exchanges may have their own legislation requirements (36%)

Education

More than 90% of respondents felt that there is a need for accountants to receive education in non-financial reporting, particularly on valuation techniques and drawing linkages between non-financial and financial reporting.

Preliminary recommendations

We propose that the following steps be taken:
a) Raise awareness, through outreach events and workshops
b) Promote trust in the framework, perhaps by appointing more local GRI Ambassadors
c) Leverage on authority, with the support of SGX, ISO and GRI brands
d) Include value chain requirements, to encourage adoption of GRI

Future research

We hope to, or have begun to:
a) produce another more academically-vigorous research paper
b) expand the geographical outreach of this research
c) expand the sample size this research locally
d) survey undergraduate and graduate students.

Interesting research points which have arisen:
a) Examine influence of non-financial reporting on existing expectation gaps
b) Examine availability of qualified people to teach accountants non-financial reporting, considering inter-disciplinary yet technical nature of subject

All feedback or collaborative efforts are welcome.