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South Africa Ranked World Best in Integrated Reporting

By Neo Khanyile

South Africa doesn’t usually have the greatest reputation; the country has some of the world’s highest crime statistics, a low GDP growth rate and is teetering on the brink of recession. However, some of our national sports teams, like the Springbok rugby team and the Proteas cricket team have outstanding track records. Also, South Africa is home to some of the best landscapes in the world. And now, a recent study published in March 2019, has confirmed South Africa’s status as the best in the world when it comes to Integrated Reporting.

As many know, an integrated report published by an entity explains how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects lead to the creation of value over the short, medium, and long term.

The authors of the study, Robert Eccles, Michael Krzus, and Carlos Solano posit that the information in an integrated report should be presented:

  • On a basis that is consistent over time, and
  • In a way that enables comparison with other organizations to the extent it is material to the organization’s own ability to create value over time

South African companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) are required prepare integrated reports in accordance with JSE listing requirements. The conclusions made in the study were found using different elements of an Integrated Report, to judge their efficacy. One of them being Materiality, a Guiding Principle, and a subject that the co-authors say has been of deep interest to them for several years. They also used the Four Content Elements—Risks and opportunities, Strategy and resource allocation, Performance, and Outlook to judge a sample of reports.


The Scores

Integrated reports published by companies in South Africa, The Netherlands, and Germany were found to be generally well done. South African companies on average scored the highest, out of a sample of 10 countries, with companies from the Netherlands and Germany scoring second and third respectively. Two South African companies—Nedbank and Vodacom—received perfect scores for their report content.

Netherlands and South Africa are the only two countries ranked High across all element scores, the United States is the only country ranked Low across all of them.

The quality of integrated reports in South Africa is attributable to the listing requirements of the JSE. However, this explanation is seen as simplistic. Rather, several other factors account for their quality. As Leigh Roberts, chief executive officer and the chairman of the working group of the Integrated Reporting Committee of South Africa (IRC), explained:

‘’King III contained the principle that ‘the board should appreciate that strategy, risk, performance, and sustainability are inseparable’ and recommended that companies prepare an integrated report to reflect this. As the principles of King III were included in the listing requirements of the JSE, listed companies were required to prepare an integrated report or explain why they were not doing so,” Roberts said. “King III did not, however, elaborate on how this report should be structured or the content it should contain. This led to the birth of the Integrated Reporting Committee (IRC) of South Africa, a multiorganizational, voluntary, national body that has brought together accountants, company secretaries, internal auditors, directors, institutional investors, the JSE, companies, and others with an interest in corporate reporting.”

The IRC, according to Roberts, developed a framework for an integrated report in 2011, which was used as a starting point for the development of the International Integrated Reporting Council’s (IIRC) International Framework, released in December 2013. Companies listed on the JSE released their first integrated reports in 2010/2011; today, it is a common practice that has spread to the public and non-profit sectors. Today, South African organizations follow the best practice guidance of the framework under the overarching corporate governance principles and recommended practices of the recently released King IV Code, according to Roberts.

South Africa’s Model, the Gold Standard

South Africa was consistently the highest ranked country in each of the categories including the risk reporting category. The IIRC states that an Integrated Report should identify “the key risks and opportunities that are specific to the organization, including those that relate to the organization’s effects on, and the continued availability, quality and affordability of, relevant capitals in the short, medium and long term.

For example, the average score for Risks and opportunities was 1.89. Underlying a large variance in the average by country —a range of 0.48 from the lowest (United States) to 3.0 (South Africa).

South Africa is the only country where integrated is mandated on a “comply or explain” basis in a much more principles-based and less litigious reporting regime. This clearly suggests that legislation and regulation is not a necessary pre-requisite for integrated reporting, according to the study’s authors.

The authors concluded that going forward, international markets should use the South African model to create a global task force to compile best practices. And that the IIRC should partner with both a data provider to maintain a global database of best practices and case studies, and with an app/software provider to provide the interface.

The authors also suggest companies should explicitly recognize that integrated reporting is far more than producing a paper or electronic paper document.

Ince #fintech Investor Marketing Agency provides a wide range of Integrated Reporting tools that will help your entity excel in reporting to your stakeholders with clarity, professionalism and distinction. We are proud to have assisted Nedbank with their award-wining Integrated Report, mentioned above. We also have offices in the United Kingdom and Mauritius which lean on our expertise to service those regions.

Check our website for more information or contact info@ince.co.za. The full report is available for download at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3345590