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Communication of Business Model Reporting i Corporate Reports - a Study of Reporting Patterns in Sweden

Conference paper
Authors Peter Beusch
Kristina Jonäll
Svetlana Sabelfeld
Gunnar Rimmel
Susanne Arvidsson
Published in 41st Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association, May 2018, Milan, Italy
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Business Administration, Accounting
Centre for Business in Society
Language en
Keywords Business models, Communication, Integrated reporting, Disclosure, Reporting patterns, Sweden
Subject categories Business Administration, Economics and Business

Abstract

Purpose - In recent years, stakeholders´ raised awareness of environmental, societal and governance problems exposed large companies to increased pressure by demanding better accounts on how they create value that benefits not only shareholders but also environment and society. From this perspective, accounts on business models (BM) become crucial, because business models are supposed to reflect the entire value creation process of organizations. In light of the global sustainable development discourse, IIRC (2013) developed a reporting framework positioning BM at the core of the corporate report. Today, a major drawback of sustainability concepts is their application as they are defined and used in various ways and, firm internally and externally, often handled in an isolated manner. This study discusses BM, as framed by and by a wider research perspective, by connecting the internal value creation perspective with external accounts of this value creation. The purpose of this study is to explore the patterns of BM reporting in Swedish companies over time and to analyze the role of in the development of reporting patterns. Design/methodology/approach – The paper rests on a comprehensive and multidimensional disclosure study based on a mostly quantitative approach in combination with minor qualitative elements. We focus on 300 annual-, sustainability-, combined- and integrated reports from the largest companies listed on the Swedish Stock Exchange. In order to examine patterns and trends, the study investigates the seven years period 2010-2016. Findings – The findings reveal three patterns of BM reporting reflecting the relation between the internal performance improvement perspective (PIP) and the external transparency perspective (TP). The first pattern is non-coupling, which means that external accounts on BM are symbolic and legitimacy- driven accounts that look transparent but do not reflect internal performance improvement. The second pattern shows strong-coupling, in which external BM accounts reflect the process of sustainable value creation, thus being strongly connected to the PIP-perspective. We also identify a grey-zone, a third pattern of loose-coupling, when companies over time move towards reflecting PIP, but have not yet reached the strong coupling stage. Most companies that actually provide integrated reports also appear to have started a development of communication practices that seem to have their roots in the IR framework (IIRC, 2013). The overall development patterns of the BM reporting demonstrates that the fulfilment of integrated reporting requirements, in the future, might experience the above-articulated stages. Results may differ depending on industry domain. Research limitations/implications – This study is of interest and relevance to business and academic communities, reporting organisations and regulators. The herein insights into various aspects of the communication of BM and how organizations are dealing with this, but also other core features of the concept, are vital inputs in the on-going quest for more effective corporate reporting. Originality/value – This is an original in-depth study contributing to the scarce research on early practice development of the communication of BM in corporate reports and thus the fulfilment of important aspects of corporate reporting.

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