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The Nexus Between Integrated Thinking, Integrated Reporting and Governance

Special issue call for papers from Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

Guest Editors:
Nick Barter, Griffith University, n.barter@griffith.edu.au
Kathleen Herbohn, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, k.herbohn@business.uq.edu.au

What's the special issue topic?
Social and environmental disclosures have become increasingly complex and are more often than not made in stand-alone sustainability reports. Integrated Reporting (IR) has been developed in response to these trends with the laudable aim of integrating social, environmental, financial and governance information into the one report (de Villiers, Rinaldi and Unerman, 2014). Integrated reporting has been variously defined but common elements include: an emphasis on the process of integrated thinking leading to the production of a periodic integrated report; and a focus on value creation in the short, medium and long-term taking into account various capitals (e.g. financial, manufactured, intellectual,  human, social and relationship, natural).

Integrated reporting is held up as a way forward for business and key stakeholders and similar to the natural capitalism model (Hawken et al, 2000), it brings that, which was previously unaccounted for into a standard form of accounting language; which is likely to be monetary. There are certain benefits to placing a monetary value on that which has previously been unaccounted for, one key benefit is it that could help foster more systemic and embedded thinking in organisational leaders. However, like all innovations, while integrated reporting could realise benefits at the same time a potential set of unintended consequences is possible being released.  Those unintended consequences are exemplified by the unleashing of economic models and theories onto that which was previously outside of the sphere of economics. 
For example, if the integrated reporting methodology is followed to its conclusion, we humans may price all things and processes and drag them into the realm of economic rationality and the concept of supply and demand dynamics impacting price. In such a world, it becomes a potentially perfectly economically rational act to increase the price of oxygen by decreasing the supply.  While such an account can appear extreme, particularly from our current paradigm. The inherent performativity that is aligned to many theories implies that such an outcome is rational. 

It has been argued that in society we are currently “haunted by the belief that the only meaningful concepts are those capable of mathematical elucidation” (Gladwin, Newburry and Reiskin, 1997, p. 248; see also, Cummings 2005; Boisot and McKelvey, 2010).  Further this is a type of rationalism that “supports the doctrine that facts are separate from values…and that truth is a function of objective reality” (Gladwin, et al., 1997, pp. 248).   While Integrated Reporting methodologies may not advocate the calculation of monetary values to all that is currently out of the economic sphere, it is perhaps a logical next step with regard to the methodology and its application.  Thus while calculating monetary values may not be advocated, it is hypothesised that a lack of advocacy is not likely to stop calculation.

The challenge ultimately lies in whether the Integrated Reporting framework further pushes a move towards anything meaningful, only being so because it is capable of being accounted for by accountants and in turn this would likely mean being accounted for numerically. In this context, this special issue would like to explore the nexus between integrated thinking, integrated reporting and governance

Submissions are weclome on: 
Submissions are encouraged which explore, but are not restricted to, the following aspects of integrated reporting and its consequences (both intended and unintended): 

  • How can integrated reporting foster a more sustainable organisation? 
  • What would be the impact of integrated reporting on employees if an organisation embraced it?  Similarly the impact on the locality of the workplace and or business operations?
  • How would integrating reporting impact the interpretation of good governance
  • In applying integrated reporting what have been the positive outcomes? What have been the negative outcomes
  • What would be the impact of integrated reporting on enterprise systems software?  What are the changes we would expect to see with accountants and how they should be trained?
  • Does integrated reporting collapse the moral framework to numbers? What are the implications?
  • What are the underlying metaphors in the integrated reporting framework?
  • Has integrated reporting driven organisational change (intended and unintended) around core activities, processes and approaches?
  • How has the implementation of integrated reporting assisted organisations to resolve the significant challenge of providing information to capital providers to appraise current firm prospects, whilst discharging their accountability to societal stakeholder regarding value creation in relation to intellectual, human, social and relationship, and natural capitals?
  • Has integrated reporting led to new forms of exploitation of human, social and relationship, and natural capitals?
  • In light of the focus on the creation of value in the future, are integrated reports incrementally informative to capital market participants
  • Has integrated reporting affected the activities of external auditors? Interesting issues for consideration include the development of innovative risk assessment procedures, assurance of future-oriented information and exposure to litigation risk
  • Have regulators and/or entrenched, privileged organisational stakeholders ‘hijacked’ integrated reporting policy initiatives and debate?

Submissions and deadlines

  • The closing date for submissions for this special issue is March 31 2018
  • Manuscripts submissions should be made via Scholar One Manuscripts
  • Selecting the special issue from the list
  • Please check the author guidelines before submitting
  • The guest editors welcome enquiries and declarations of interest in submitting. All papers will be reviewed in accordance with SAMPJ's normal processes. Enquiries can be sent to the guest Editors.


Boisot, M. and McKelvey, B (2010) ‘Integrating Modernist and Postmodernist Perspectives on Organizations: A Complexity Science Bridge.’ Academy of Management Review, 35(3), 415–433.
Cummings, S (2005). Recreating Strategy. London: Sage.
De Villiers, C., Rinaldi, L. and J. Unerman, (2014), ‘Integrated reporting: Insights, gaps and an agenda for future research’, Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 27(7), pp. 1042-1067.
Gladwin, T. N., Newburry, W. E., and Reiskin, E. D (1997) ‘Why is the northern elite mind biased against community, the environment and a sustainable future?’, In M.H. Bazerman, et al. (Eds.), Environment, Ethics and Behavior: The Psychology of Environmental Valuation and Degradation. San Francisco: The New Lexington Press.
Hawken, P., Lovins, L.H. & Lovins, Amory B. (Amory Bloch) 2000, Natural capitalism: the next industrial revolution, Earthscan, London.