In a recent article in the Sunday Star Times, ‘Accounting attitude doesn’t add up’,
Rod Oram noted with disbelief that the New Zealand Institute of Chartered
Accountants (NZICA) was supposedly redesigning itself as Fit for the Future, yet had
decided to disband the Sustainable Development Reporting Committee (SDRC).
Wendy McGuinness, the previous Chair of the NZICA’s SDRC, and a member of the
‘2002 Taskforce on Sustainable Development Reporting’ which originally developed
the rationale for the SDRC, is ‘shocked and dismayed by the decision to disband this
important committee.’ McGuinness says ‘this implies New Zealand accountants are
pulling out of this emerging area of study and business practice.’

Internationally, there is a great deal happening, as Oram indicates. Following the
establishment of the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC) earlier this
year, the Developing an Action Plan for Integrated Reporting conference is to be held
in mid-October at the Harvard Business School. The purpose of the conference is to
develop a set of recommendations for the rapid and broad adoption of integrated
reporting on a global basis. It is to be chaired by Robert G. Eccles, Harvard Business
School’s Professor of Management Practice. Professor Eccles is also co-author of a
book titled One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy. McGuinness
interviewed Eccles in Boston two months ago, and this video is now available on the
Sustainable Future Institute website.


McGuinness is hoping to attend the Harvard conference, as she believes ‘integrated
reporting is one of the emerging mechanisms to improve trust in the community. It
offers companies an opportunity to communicate not only financial results, but also
social and environmental impacts, to investors and other stakeholders.’

Further, she notes ‘while many companies have adopted integrated reporting on a
voluntary basis, only a few countries such as Denmark, France and Sweden, require
sustainability reporting. South Africa has taken the lead, being the first country to
implement a mandatory integrated reporting framework for all listed companies.’

McGuinness believes New Zealand should consider adopting a voluntary filing
approach for the country’s Top 200 companies by revenue, noting, ‘52% of our Top
200 companies are overseas controlled and not listed on the NZSX’. With such a
large percentage of these companies being technically invisible to the general public,
the Sustainable Future Institute has suggested to the Ministry of Economic
Development that the proposed Financial Markets Authority (FMA) implement a
voluntary filing regime. The Sustainable Future Institute is undertaking a survey of
the Top 200 companies to find out what they think, with the results to be published in
November 2010. All companies that undertake the survey will be able to benchmark
their results against those of their peers.

McGuinness considers New Zealand is missing a strategic opportunity to show
leadership that aligns with our national brand. ‘No longer is it acceptable to consider
and regulate the financial markets and the environment in isolation from each other,
and from society as a whole. We need to find ways for institutions to work together to
develop trust not simply in the investor markets, but with those who cannot afford or
choose not to actively invest but are affected by the way these entities operate’.

‘It is therefore disappointing that the NZICA is falling behind in an area of significant
importance to New Zealand, running the risk of having standards developed
internationally without having the opportunity to shape these standards. Investing in
this initiative would improve both public good and private sector outcomes, making
accountants’ part of the solution.’