Systems Thinking and Integrated Thinking for Integrated Reporting
Keywords:Integrated Reporting, Systems Thinking, Integrated Thinking, holism, sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals
Industries and institutions are under pressure to do no harm in their processes of value creation, capture and delivery whilst actively limiting the harm their operations cause. As a consequence, and in the quest for more accountable, sustainable and humane behaviour, industries and institutions are being increasingly called upon to report on their operations in an integrated manner. Integrated reports combine information on the financial and non-financial aspects of firm performance with the purpose of showing how an organisation creates, preserves or erodes value over time. Such a report is usually of interest to providers of financial capital wishing to understand the wider impacts of the organisation, but are now becoming a document of interest to all types of stakeholders, including community members, customers, potential funders, academic institutions, suppliers and business partners. The integrated report is an outcome of several interrelated activities in a firm, including governance, strategic management, stakeholder engagement and risk management, to name a few. A variety of studies have indicated that whilst the construction of a comprehensive integrated report is a complex undertaking, skills related to systems thinking and integrated thinking can aid in the process. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate this connection between integrated reporting and systems thinking. Through the application of systems thinking it is proposed that the ability to perceive the interconnectedness of an organisation’s activities and resources and to be able to employ higher-level reasoning with regard to them, is enhanced. This can contribute to more effective governance and management of organisations, and by extension, to more realistic, comprehensive and informed integrated reports.