Towards a legitimate
An exploration of Integrated Reporting
in the Netherlands
Koen van Bommel
Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, VU University,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the multiplicity of views on integrated reporting
and to consider the possibility of, and impediments to, reconciling these multiple rationales (“orders of
worth”) and thus gain legitimacy through a compromise. This sheds light on the understanding
of integrated reporting as such, as well as shows how legitimacy struggles are resolved in practice
around complex accounting practices in heterogeneous environments.
Design/methodology/approach – This explorative paper empirically applies Boltanski and
The´venot’s sociology of worth (SOW) framework to analyse integrated reporting in the Dutch
reporting field. Data were collected using multiple methods, including 64 semi-structured in-depth
interviews with a wide range of relevant actors, and documentary analysis. Data were coded for the
presence of orders of worth and legitimating compromise mechanisms.
Findings – The author’s analysis suggests that integrated reporting combines the disparate domains
of industrial, market, civic and green order of worth. These different logics of valuation need to be
reconciled in a compromise in order for integrated reporting to become a legitimate practice. Such
a compromise requires a common interest, avoidance of clarification and maintenance of ambiguity.
The author’s analysis suggests these mechanisms are violated though, with the risk that integrated
reporting gets captured by investors and accountants, leading to local private arrangements rather
than durable legitimate compromise.
Research limitations/implications – First, SOW informs the understanding of integrated
reporting. It highlights in particular its fragility as fundamentally different rationales need to be
reconciled, which is a challenge yet also gives rise to creative frictions. Second, the SOW framework
creates the possibility for scholars to look closer at the dynamics of legitimacy and at the possible
mechanisms to attain legitimacy in fragmented and heterogeneous environment.
Practical implications – The SOW framework offers tools for practitioners, in particular those
working within a pluralistic context. The various mechanisms of compromise discussed in this paper
provide practical guidelines for how to manage this complexity and gain or maintain legitimacy.
Originality/value – This rich empirical study combines a novel theoretical approach (the SOW
framework) with an analysis of the relatively unexplored topic of integrated reporting. At the same
time it introduces a conceptualisation of legitimacy that highlights communicative and constitutive
dialogue and goes beyond fit and compliance.
Keywords Legitimacy, The Netherlands, Sustainability reporting, Integrated reporting, Justification,
Sociology of worth
Paper type Research paper
The challenges of integrated
Integrating mechanisms for integrated
Elena Giovannoni and Maria Pia Maraghini
Department of Business and Law, University of Siena, Siena, Italy
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the challenges involved in the
development of integrated performance measurement systems (PMS). In particular, given the
difficulties involved in the development process, and the “inherent incompleteness” of PMS, the
authors seek to investigate whether and how these difficulties may challenge the integrating role of
PMS and the eventual influence of alternative integrating mechanisms on this role.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper combines studies on PMS with empirical findings
related to Monnalisa, a medium-sized Italian family firm, which designs and sells children’s wear and
accessories. Over the last ten years Monnalisa has adopted various design frameworks (such as the
balanced scorecard and the integrated report) for integrated PMS. Through an analysis of the PMS
development process within the company, the authors explore the challenges involved in this process.
Findings – In the case of Monnalisa, despite the adoption of a design framework for integrated PMS,
various critical issues emerged during the implementation phase, mainly as a consequence of tensions
between different performance dimensions and the need for creativity. While these critical issues
compromised the integrating role of PMS, alternative integrating mechanisms (such as the direct
intervention of the founder and social interaction) were stimulated and worked alongside PMS in
achieving organizational integration. In so doing, these mechanisms operated in different ways, by
complementing incomplete PMS when they were failing to achieve organizational integration, or
improving their integrated nature.
Originality/value – Although the literature acknowledges some of the challenges involved in PMS
development, understanding how to manage these challenges and how they actually affect PMS
require further investigation. This paper provides new insights on the challenges involved in the
development process (particularly in relation to the tensions caused by creativity, unpredictability,
time gaps between operations and targets, as well as the distinct priorities of different levels of
customers), and on the role played by alternative integrating mechanisms in the management of these
challenges. While the founder’s direct intervention may be peculiar to the context of medium-sized
enterprises, the role played by social integrating mechanisms suggests potential ways to overcome the
challenges of integrated PMS also within larger firms.
Keywords Performance measurement, Garment industry, Small to medium-sized enterprises, Italy,
Performance measurement systems, Development process, Integratingmechanisms, Integratedmeasures,
Italian company, Creativity
Paper type Research paper
Integrated reporting: On the need
for broadening out and opening up
Judy Brown and Jesse Dillard
School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington,
Wellington, New Zealand
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to critically assess integrated reporting so as to “broaden out”
and “open up” dialogue and debate about how accounting and reporting standards might assist
or obstruct efforts to foster sustainable business practices.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors link current debates about integrated reporting
to prior research on the contested politics of social and environmental reporting, and critiques of the
dominance of business case framings. The authors introduce research from science and technology
studies that seeks to broaden out and open up appraisal methods and engagement processes in
ways that highlight divergent framings and politically contentious issues, in an effort to develop
empowering designs for sustainability. The authors demonstrate the strong resonance between this
work and calls for the development of dialogic/polylogic accountings that take pluralism seriously
by addressing constituencies and perspectives currently marginalized in mainstream accounting.
The authors draw and build on both literatures to critically reflect on the International Integrated
Reporting Council’s (IIRC, 2011, 2012a, b, 2013a, b) advocacy of a business case approach to integrated
reporting as an innovation that can contribute to sustainability transitions.
Findings – The authors argue that integrated reporting, as conceived by the IIRC, provides a very
limited and one-sided approach to assessing and reporting on sustainability issues.While the business
case framing on which it rests might assist in extending the range of phenomena accounted for in
organizational reports, it remains an ideologically closed approach that is more likely to reinforce
rather than encourage critical reflection on “business as usual” practices. Recognizing that the
meaning and design of integrated reporting are still far from stabilized, the authors also illustrate more
enabling possibilities aimed at identifying and engaging diverse socio-political perspectives.
Practical implications – Science and technology studies research on the need to broaden out and
open up appraisal methods, together with proposals for dialogic/polylogic accountings, facilitates
a critical, nuanced discussion of the value of integrated reporting as a change initiative that might
foster transitions to more sustainable business practices.
Originality/value – The authors link ideas and findings from science and technology studies with
literature on dialogic/polylogic accountings to engage current debates around the merits of integrated
reporting as a change initiative that can contribute to sustainability. This paper advances understanding
of the role of accounting in sustainability transitions in three main ways: first, it takes discussion of
accounting change beyond the organizational level, where much professional and academic literature
is currently focussed, and extends existing critiques of business case approaches to social and
environmental reporting; second, it emphasizes the political and power-laden nature of appraisal
processes, dimensions that are under-scrutinized in existing accounting literature; and third, it introduces
a novel framework that enables evaluation of individual disclosure initiatives such as integrated
reporting without losing sight of the big picture of sustainability challenges.
Structures and relationships:
women partners’ careers in
Germany and the UK
School of Management and Business, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK
Purpose – This paper aims to highlight differences in women’s experiences of advancement to
partnership in accountancy firms in Germany and the UK and consider the ways in which such
differences may be constituted by the institutional context in which they occurred.
Design/methodology/approach – This research is based on 60 semi-structured interviews with
women partners in Germany and the UK. Techniques adopted from grounded theory were applied.
Research limitations/implications – This qualitative research is context-specific and given its
cross-national, interdisciplinary nature is limited to the extent that findings cannot be generalised
beyond the studied scope.
Practical implications – The study points to cross-national differences in women’s career
advancement in accountancy firms. The findings support extant research suggesting that structured
performance evaluation and hiring systems – while not without flaws – are likely more
gender-neutral. In addition, the study highlights the potential of headhunters and recruitment agents
as an important tool for women to navigate their way out of career culs-de-sac.
Originality/value – This research provides unique insights into women partners’ experiences of
career advancement and, through its interdisciplinary nature, demonstrates the usefulness of
employing institutional frameworks in qualitative in-depth studies of this kind.
Keywords Women, Partnership, Cross-national, Varieties of capitalism
Paper type Research paper
Women remain widely under-represented among partnership ranks in accountancy
firms, both in the UK and Germany, despite a relatively large investment of employers
in “equality and diversity” programs (Kornberger et al., 2010) as well as a
comparatively high proportion of women entering the profession as graduates (Kumra
and Vinnicombe, 2008). Furthermore, as Kornberger et al. (2010) remarked, citing
Anderson-Gough et al. (2005) and others, the study of gender in accountancy firms
continues to be an under-researched field. In addition, much of the current research
focuses on a specific country context and cross-national comparative studies are rare
(Terjesen and Singh, 2008). This article contributes to the existent literature by
applying institutional frameworks to the in-depth study of women’s accounts of career
advancement in the accountancy profession cross-nationally. Focusing on the question
of coordination, it seeks to shed light on potential cross-national differences in the ways