With the transition to Integrated Reporting, companies are now facing a paradigm shift and many unanswered questions. One fact, however, can already be observed today: with Integrated Reporting the Internet is gaining even more in importance in its role as a publication channel.
We have done some calculations: in 2013, a printed report of a company among the DAX 30 listings was composed of an average of 283 pages. The longest report even accounted for no less than 580 pages – this is more than many novels. Unlike in the case of literature, however, one may wonder: who is actually supposed to read all of that?
Integrated Reporting promises a way out of today’s complexity of corporate reports. This approach aims at a compact and cross-linked presentation of a company’s performance based on financial and non-financial indicators – and all of this not on several hundreds of pages but packed in 50, 60 or 70 pages at most.
But is it even possible to achieve this goal? Many corporations are well aware of the fact that their stakeholders are overloaded with the current amount of information given in printed reports but at the same time, the regulatory requirements to provide reporting details are constantly increasing. Thus, it remains unclear how companies can implement a report that puts key information into a nutshell without, however, neglecting the existing information requirements and their stakeholders’ needs.
The Internet offers a way out of this: Online reports allow to present information in as much detail as necessary without the need for large investments in resources, while the highly selective usage and well-structured navigation concepts help avoid that recipients are overloaded with too much information. When combining print and online reporting, the print version should focus on the key elements of the report and refer the readers to the online report for detailed information. There is no reasonable explanation why, for instance, notes and other information of special interest should still be included in the print version, causing extensive costs and effort. Shouldn’t it be enough if they are available in electronic form online? In our opinion, one of the principles in Integrated Reporting should be to provide a print version with key contents only and to publish the entire report online.
Another reason why online reporting is perfectly suited for integrated reports is cross-linking. While in traditional reporting, the individual reporting sections are often disconnected from one another, Integrated Reporting allows for linking such contents, thus revealing interdependencies. Obviously, no other medium is better suited for this task than one that has been based on this idea from the very beginning.