I was honored to be asked to address the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) this week in Istanbul. The IIRC is a global coalition of regulators, investors, companies, standard setters, accounting professionals, and NGOs that is encouraging the adoption of integrated reporting—and its sibling, integrated thinking—on the basis that “communication about businesses’ value creation should be the next step in the evolution of corporate reporting.” Not the natural habitat for a brand consultant, you may be thinking, but our point of view at Interbrand had more in common with the council than I had initially expected.
We hear a lot today about brands and storytelling, largely in the context of customer or consumer communications. However, storytelling was on everyone’s lips at The IIRC: integrated reporting was being described as a tool to help organizations explain how they create value.
In my role as panelist discussing human, relationship, and intellectual “capitals,” I introduced the idea that an organizational brand can really help here: rather than ask your investor audience to understand a fresh story every time you issue a report, I urged the council to think about how integrated reporting should consistently reaffirm the organization’s position in the investor audience’s mind. A brand can function as a useful “shorthand,” distilling down a complex array of impressions of the organization—whether through an integrated report or through other points of interaction—into a simplified, more memorable and, if managed well, more compelling picture.
As I discussed this with the council members, they immediately understood that, in order for the brand to play this role, it is vital to ensure that the brand is intrinsically connected to the business strategy, an alignment that more and more of our clients are trying to achieve.
If the IIRC manages to drive adoption of integrated reporting to the extent that they hope, both companies and stakeholders will benefit. By integrating information about financial performance with information about other performance indicators such as environmental and social sustainability—and speaking in one voice about it—disclosure is enhanced and trust between the organization and stakeholders is strengthened.
At Interbrand, we understand how important it is to have a clear view of risks to and opportunities in strategy—and how important it is to share points of view and collaborate. It was gratifying to be part of a larger conversation that is moving us toward the kind of business world we envision: one that will nurture a better society, a healthier environment, and ultimately build stronger financial markets.