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Robert Eccles is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School. He does research on corporate reporting, and has written three books on the subject, including his latest "One Report: Integrated[…]

The short term internal benefits of integrated reporting will eventually lead to a companies superior performance.

Question: Does integrated reporting yield direct rnfinancial benefits?
Robert Eccles: The rnblunt answer is no. There’s maybe 15 to 20 companies that have started rndoing this, they’ve done it for a year or two and a few cases has been 5rn or 6, so the database is much too small that you could do the type of rnanalysis that a financial economist would do to be able to link rnintegrated reported to superior shareholder return.  If you talk to rnpeople in the companies and you say, “What do you think the benefits arern that you receive from doing integrated reporting?”  They will say it rnhas certainly improved internal coordination, it has certainly made rnsustainability more real in terms of it’s a core part of the strategy, rnit’s embedded in operations.  They would say it has improved the rnunderstanding that the stakeholder community has of the company and the rnrelationship between financial and non-financial performance.  But to bern fair, they would say that the shareholder community is still strugglingrn to understand this other kind of information.  My response to that rnwould be it’s a necessary, educational process that companies need to gorn through with their shareholders.
So at this rnpoint in time, the benefits the companies would explain are primarily rninternal, but I do believe over time, and clearly these companies rnbelieve over time, that this will lead to a superior, long term rnperformance.
The issue of timeframe is rnimportant, because integrated reporting, the title of my book is One rnReport:  Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy, it’s really rnabout the long term.  So companies have to take the long term, rnshareholders have to take the long term, investors who are short-term rnoriented, hedge funds, technical trading programs, a lot of hedge funds,rn probably aren’t going to be interested. That’s not the shareholder rncommunity that companies that are producing an integrated report are rntrying to appeal to.  Personally, I think that’s part of the problem rnwith our capital markets today, I think it’s one of the reasons that we rnhad the recent financial crises, was this short-term shareholder-only rnoriented mentality.  Integrated reporting is a way of taking a broader rnstakeholder view, of rethinking the role of corporations in society, andrn stretching out the timeframes under which both companies and investors rnmake their decisions.

Recordedrn on April 19, 2010