Saying more with less? Disclosure conciseness, completeness and balance in Integrated Reports
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SubjectIntegrated reporting; Completeness; Sustainability; Impression management; Textual analysis; Disclosure; Balance; Conciseness
The Integrated Reporting Framework of 2013 represents the latest international attempt to connect a firm's financial and sustainability (i.e., environmental, social and governance) performance in one company report. An Integrated Report (IR) should communicate "concisely" about how a firm's strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of sustainable value. At the same time, an IR needs to be "complete and balanced", i.e., broadly including all material matters, both positive and negative, in a balanced way. Drawing on impression management studies, we examine a selection of performance determinants to gain insights into the factors associated with conciseness, completeness and balance in IR. The results from a sample of IR early adopters show that in the presence of a firm's weak financial performance, the IR tends to be significantly longer and less readable (i.e., less concise), and more optimistic (i.e., less balanced). We additionally find that firms with worse social performance provide reports that are foggier (i.e., less concise) and with less information on their sustainability performance (i.e., less complete). Our evidence implies that IR early adopters employ quantity and syntactical reading ease manipulation as well as thematic content and verbal tone manipulation as impression management strategies. The results also suggest that such strategies depend not only on the level of firms' performance but also on the type of performance (financial versus nonfinancial/sustainability). This paper adds to the limited literature on IR in sustainability accounting as well as to the research in mainstream financial accounting that examines disclosure quality using textual analysis. (C) 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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