Initial trends in corporate disclosures following the introduction of integrated reporting practice in South Africa

Mutalib Anifowose, Ahmed Haji Abdifatah*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of IR reforms in South Africa on corporate disclosure practices of South African companies. In particular, the authors explore initial trends in corporate disclosures following the adoption of IR practice.

Drawing from Suchman’s (1995) framework of strategic and institutional legitimacy, the authors use content analysis to examine corporate disclosure practices. The authors conduct industry-specific analyses based on various industries to explore corporate disclosures practices across and within various industries in South Africa. The evidence is drawn from 246 integrated reports of large South African companies across six major industries over a three-year period (2011-2013), a period following the introduction of an “apply or explain” IR requirement in South Africa.

The results first show a significant increase in the overall amount of corporate disclosures following the adoption of IR practice. In particular, the authors find that intellectual capital and human capital disclosure categories have increased over time, with relational capital disclosures showing a decreasing trend. Second, the authors find that corporate disclosures are increasingly becoming institutionalised over time across and within industries following the adoption of IR practice. However, companies fail to provide meaningful disclosures on the interdependencies and trade-offs between the capitals, or components of a capital following the adoption of IR practice. Overall, the authors find that companies use specific disclosure strategies to respond to external pressures (strategic legitimacy), and that such disclosure strategies are increasingly becoming institutionalised across and within various industries (institutional legitimacy).

Practical implications
The theoretical implication of this study is that the strategic and institutional perspectives of legitimacy theory are complementary, rather than conflicting, and dovetail to explain corporate reporting practices. In terms of practical implications, the adoption of specific reporting frameworks such as the emerging IR framework is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, such reporting frameworks could potentially enhance comparability and consistency of organisational reports across and within industries. On the other hand, corporate reports could become a set of monotonous reports motivated by considerations other organisational accountability. Hence, to overcome the latter, this study emphasises the importance of specific accountability metrics and reporting guidelines, rather than the current generic IR guidelines, to enhance organisational reporting practices.

The paper’s longitudinal analysis of a large sample of integrated reports following the adoption of IR practice has the potential to inform growing academic research and ongoing policy initiatives for the emerging IR agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-399
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Intellectual Capital
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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