South Africa’s JSE stock exchange (www.jse.co.za) is requiring listed companies to integrate their sustainability reports with their annual reports, with effect from this month. According to a report in Business Day newspaper (www.businessday.co.za) Mervyn King, chairman of the King committee and a leading expert on governance, said: “SA is among the first countries in the world to require integrated reporting of listed companies. This puts us ahead of the game.”
The newspaper says there are still no set standards for companies’ integrated reporting, and Mr King will chair a new Integrated Reporting Committee to issue guidelines on good practice in integrated reporting.
The King Report on Corporate Governance in South Africa 2009 (King III) includes an integrated report disclosure checklist, effective March 2010, according its publication by Ernst & Young. Companies should apply this, or explain why they feel it approroriate not to apply or to apply it differently (“apply or explain”). An integrated report should contain “adequate information on the operations if the company, the sustainability issues pertinent to its business, the financial result and the results of its operations and cash flows”.
Jayne Mammatt, an associate director in governance and sustainability at Ernst & Young, was cited in the newspaper saying an integrated report should evaluate all areas of performance, including economic, social and environmental issues. It was not sufficient for companies to provide wordy platitudes and vague estimates, Ms Mammatt said. It cites a 2009 study by Ernst & Young showed that only a handful of 3,000 sustainability reports around the world were integrated.
Mr King is quoted as saying: “The corporate identity of companies has changed and so reporting has to change. Stakeholders need to make informed assessments about the longer-term sustainability of a company and that it is operating as a responsible corporate citizen.” The requirement is likely to make more work for companies.
The founding organisations of the committee include the Association for Savings and Investment SA, Business Unity SA, the Institute of Directors SA, the JSE and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica). Graham Terry, Saica’s senior executive of strategy and thought leadership will chair a working group whose first task will be to develop a framework for integrated reporting.
Leon Campher, CEO of the Association for Savings and Investment, was quoted saying the project was considered a priority initiative, given the volumes of annual reports generated by the association’s members. “We have 153 member companies managing in excess of R2,5-trillion of assets. Integrated reporting will facilitate more holistic and meaningful reporting of financial results, enabling shareholders and clients to gain a better understanding of a company’s triple bottom line.”
Freda Evans, chief financial officer of the JSE, was quoted as saying: “Reporting on the financials alone is no longer sufficient, as all aspects of the business – environmental, social and governance aspects – affect the company’s bottom line.”
Saica CEO Matsobane Matlwa was cited: “Corporate reporting is entering a new era. Shareholders and other stakeholders need broader information to enable them to make more informed decisions about a company. This does not necessarily mean more detail, but greater insight into the strategy, risks and value creation of the company.”