The purpose of this paper is to examine the degree of integration of reference documents (RD) produced by French CAC 40 listed companies to determine whether they have initiated the adoption of an integrated reporting (IR) approach. In particular, the author has examined how the French regulation shapes the integration of sustainable development issues within the business practices of these companies.Design/methodology/approachOn the basis of content analysis of 279 RD over nine years (2006-2014), the author has examined the extent and the quality of the IR practice with the help of three criteria (strategy, governance and commitment of stakeholders). Evidence of the existence of an integration practice is thus sought using 34 CAC 40 companies having the obligation, according to various regulations, to include in their management report information relating to questions of sustainable development (SD).FindingsThere is a variation between the CAC 40 companies regarding integration of SD issues in the core business. As a result of the analysis, the author has observed that 41% of companies in our sample integrate issues of SD to more than 90%, whereas other companies consider concerns relating to SD as subsidiary. All of the companies (100%) have put in place policies to manage the environmental and social governance aspects, assuming recognition of the importance of these issues for the companies. Yet only a few (41%) went further than the mere declaration of intent and have revised their business processes to reflect the taking into account of all the factors which contribute to the process of value creation. On the whole, the principle of connectivity that perfectly defines the integrated character of a report is only moderately respected by the companies in the sample.Practical implicationsThe methodology deployed in this study to identify the integration practices of listed companies in France can be replicated by other researchers who would endeavor to assess the IR practices of companies from other countries. For regulatory agencies, this study provides evidence on how the various regulations that make up a national business system shape company reporting and allow informing different categories of stakeholders.Originality/valueThis research provides the empirical result of a longitudinal study of the degree of integration of RDs in the context of an environment regulating non-financial reporting. The construction of a set of criteria characterizing the degree of integration of SD issues at the heart of businesses is another innovative approach of this study.
Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 21, 2018
Keywords: Integrated reporting; Sustainable development; Corporate social responsibility (CSR); Value creation; Institutional complementarity; National business system
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