Penny Baxter, co-Founder & MD, and Fay Hogg, Head of Reporting, Salterbaxter MSLGROUP, were at our HQ in Paris on Wednesday, to discuss the Integrated Reporting agenda. Leaders from 15 CAC 40 corporations attended as well as the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). This was a brilliant demonstration of our colleagues’ expertise in this highly strategic area.
The presentation was followed by a very insightful conversation on a topic which is getting pretty hot in Europe: by the end of 2016, all publicly listed companies will have to move to the Integrated Reporting structure. The European Union is clearly putting some pressure on the matter, and the French government has already implemented the « Grenelle 2 » regulation. And let’s keep in mind that the COP21 Climate Change summit will take place in Paris next December, with a crucial goal: maintain the increase of the planet temperature below 2° Celsius.
Here’s my take on this great conversation that took place around croissants and jus d’orange:
1. Integrated Reporting is the result of Integrated Thinking
This is probably the first and main obstacle: changing mindsets.
If a minority of companies has already started embracing the change, a vast majority remains uncertain, cautious, and conservative in their approach:
« Why should we do things differently? Aren’t analysts and investors happy with the way we are currently reporting? Why should sustainability have anything to do with producing and selling? »…
The answer is that sustainability is not just a nice-to-have or an external constraint: it is currently the biggest opportunity that corporations can seize to innovate, transform their business model, create real differentiation and generate value for all.
This is why Integrated Thinking is the first step: a much wider approach which fundamentally transforms the way corporations conceive their business model.
To make this happen and in order to build a better and more sustainable performance, you need to connect the dots between all the assets a corporation has.
Integrated Thinking means breaking down all traditional silos and internal boundaries between the Sales, Marketing, Financial, CSR, Communications and HR departments. From this standpoint, engaging the top leadership is essential: at the end of the day, it’s all about protecting growth and profitability over time, but in a manner which simultaneously protects the world around.
2. Integrated Reporting paves the way to Shared Value Creation
Everything a company does has an impact on both its performance and society at large. The challenge is to have the leadership teams acknowledge that the components of value creation today are diverse and closely interlinked. Manufactural and Financial Capital of course, but also Intellectual, Social, Human and Natural Capital.
Here is an illustration of an organization’s value creation process (source: IIRC)
There is a change of perspective here: it’s not just “What I produce”, but also “How I produce” that matters. The environmental, social and human impact of the “How” is a growing concern that people scrutinize.
It is therefore no surprise that, for many stakeholders, Shared Value is the new frontier.
Creating Shared Value starts with the idea that sales and sustainability should never be opposed: all stakeholders should benefit from the value created by businesses, with no – or limited and controlled – impact on society.
3. Integrated Reporting is a business commitment, beyond a mandatory regulation
Why a commitment? Because the whole process is driven by a holistic view of the organization – one that traditional financial reporting doesn’t create. And this is why all internal and external stakeholders need to be part of this process.
Adopting the Integrated Reporting structure certainly helps better manage risks, but it also helps leverage hidden opportunities.
It is not an easy task though, and the execution of the roadmap to Integrated Thinking & Reporting can take a few years. But the benefits will be tangible, in many ways: a quality of collaboration within the organization, a better and more sustainable business model, a superior stakeholder relationship and, on top of everything, a far stronger reputation.
At the end of the journey, the Integrated Reporting structure will be a great opportunity to tell a connected corporate story, as our colleagues from Salterbaxter MSLGROUP put it.
Pascal Beucler holds BAs in History and Language Sciences, a master’s degree in Linguistics and a post graduate degree in Semio-Linguistics. In 1987 he joined Intelligences, a subsidiary of Publicis, and in 1992 he became Managing Director. In 1994 he was promoted to Partner at Publicis Consultants, and then to General Manager of Carré Noir in 2001. In 2005 Pascal was named Vice-President of Publicis Consultants | Worldwide, in charge of Brand Strategy and development of its international network. Follow him on Twitter: @pbeucler