The surest sign a leading practice will become industry standard is when the industry’s standard-setter adopts the practice for itself. So accountants take note of this tipping point: the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) launched its first integrated report in 2017.
It wasn’t an easy process, Scott H. Spiegel, the AICPA’s CFO, told the <IR>US Community in its most recent community conversation, on December 12, 2018.
“We haven’t always been comfortable sharing with the outside community,” Spiegel said. So integrated reporting made a lot of people uncomfortable in the AICPA, which has over 431,000 members. Talking publicly about how the organization’s vision and purpose drives its strategic objectives and creates value through its business activities seems simple enough. But it triggers an introspective process that shines a new light on conversations about strategy and performance.
Some issues were easy to talk about, such as the diversity of the board, which the organization is proud of. Other issues, such as enterprise risk, took a leap of faith to put in print. One concern was revealing proprietary information. In addition, publishing the organization’s key performance indicators meant being willing to talk about where it fell short. That’s uncomfortable for any organization
In the end, AICPA leaders saw the positive impact of integrated reporting on their own thinking, so they followed through despite their discomfort. And they’ve committed to continuing with integrated reporting, potentially diving deeper into issues such as natural capital. That the AICPA is committed to its integrated report should tell us all which way the wind is blowing for the industry.