Saying more with less? Disclosure conciseness, completeness and balance in Integrated Reports

Gaia Melloni, Ariela Caglio, Paolo Perego

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


The Integrated Reporting Framework of 2013 represents the latest international attempt to connect a firm’s financial and sustainability (i.e., environmental, social and governance) performance in one company report. An Integrated Report (IR) should communicate “concisely” about how a firm’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of sustainable value. At the same time, an IR needs to be “complete and balanced”, i.e., broadly including all material matters, both positive and negative, in a balanced way. Drawing on impression management studies, we examine a selection of performance determinants to gain insights into the factors associated with conciseness, completeness and balance in IR. The results from a sample of IR early adopters show that in the presence of a firm’s weak financial performance, the IR tends to be significantly longer and less readable (i.e., less concise), and more optimistic (i.e., less balanced). We additionally find that firms with worse social performance provide reports that are foggier (i.e., less concise) and with less information on their sustainability performance (i.e., less complete). Our evidence implies that IR early adopters employ quantity and syntactical reading ease manipulation as well as thematic content and verbal tone manipulation as impression management strategies. The results also suggest that such strategies depend not only on the level of firms’ performance but also on the type of performance (financial versus nonfinancial/sustainability). This paper adds to the limited literature on IR in sustainability accounting as well as to the research in mainstream financial accounting that examines disclosure quality using textual analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220–238
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Accounting and Public Policy
Issue number3
Early online date18 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Integrated Reporting
  • Sustainability
  • Conciseness
  • Completeness
  • Balance
  • Disclosure
  • Textual analysis
  • Impression management

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