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Title: The Institutionalisation of Integrated Reporting: An Exploration of Adoption, Sustainability Embeddedness and Decoupling
Author(s): Elmaghrabi, Mohamed E L
Supervisor(s): Dey, C
Tsalavoutas, Ioannis
Keywords: Integrated Reporting
Sustainability Embeddedness
Institutional Theory
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The thesis conveys three discrete, yet interconnected, studies embracing issues revolving around the exploration of integrated reporting adoption and embeddedness using an institutional theory lens. Integrated reporting can be described as ‘a holistic and integrated representation of the company’s performance in terms of both its finance and its sustainability’ (King III, 2009, p. 54). The first study explores the mimetic, normative and regulative institutional factors, at both an organisational field (meso) and country (macro) levels, affecting the adoption of integrated reporting. Moreover, it provides a portrayal for the adoption of the new practice among corporations. The study uses a relatively large sample driven from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) report list and tests it empirically using panel data from 2002- 2010. The second study develops a measure to capture sustainability embeddedness in corporate reports and uses the measure to explore and describe sustainability embeddedness in the integrated reports. Additionally, indicators on sustainability embeddedness in the de facto GRI guidelines are highlighted in comparison to the measure developed. Finally, the third study explores the determinants of sustainability embeddedness in integrated reports using a decoupling lens. More specifically, the study examines the effects of integrated reporting age (as a proxy for early and late adoption), the level of reporting of GRI sustainability guidelines (GRI application level), report assurance and corporate governance on sustainability embeddedness in integrated reports. The study finds that the application of integrated reporting emerged in 2001 amongst only a few corporations in Europe and South America, and was spread among all continents by 2010. While mimetic and normative factors at a meso level were significantly related to integrated reporting adoption, regulative and normative factors at a macro level were found to be of limited association with integrated reporting adoption. Interestingly, corporate size, a firm characteristic control variable, was found to be negatively associated with IR adoption. Exploring sustainability embeddedness in integrated reports in the second study reveals that on average integrated reporters covered 54.4% of the indicators on sustainability embeddedness on the constructed index. Integrated reporters were found to show that sustainability is embedded in some aspects as stakeholder dialogue, executive members’ commitment to sustainability and developing measures to report on various environmental impacts. Conversely, integrated reporters conducting business as usual and prioritised financial aspects in others aspects as remuneration, promotion and appraisal, employee sustainability engagement and investor dialogue regarding sustainability. The results also show that there are great discrepancies in the levels of sustainability embeddedness coverage between integrated reporters. Sustainability embeddedness scores were found to decline, especially in the most recent years of adoption. Regression results in the third study did not find evidence that early adopters of integrated reporting had significantly higher sustainability embeddedness than later adopters. Additionally, corporate governance mechanisms were also unable to explain sustainability embeddedness scores, with the exception of the positive association between corporate two-tier boards and sustainability embeddedness. Embedding sustainability was found to be mainly associated with GRI application level. There was limited evidence to suggest that integrated reporters providing assurance for their reports had higher sustainability embeddedness scores. The studies, taken together, contribute to the body of literature on CSR adoption in general and the adoption of integrated reporting and its practices in particular. The studies also provide contribution and implications by testing institutional theory in a new context.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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