This section addresses the chosen methodology for the study as well as the rationale of the chosen method. It further describes the process of developing the constructed disclosure index as well as the sample population and researched time span
In order to further examine and be able to answer the stated research questions, this study has been conducted through a deductive approach. A deductive theory is considered the most commonly used view of the relationship between theory and social research, where hypotheses are deduced and converted into operational terms, based on a theoretical background (Bryman, 2016). Quantified data has been collected and statistically analyzed. As a conclusive process a revision of the theory has been conducted with respect to the findings, to determine if the theoretical assumptions are confirmed.
The most commonly used method for analyzing disclosed information in corporate and environmental reports is the content analysis (Branco & Rodrigues, 2007). A content analysis enables the user to quantify disclosed material and transform the information into numerical values, which can be statistically analyzed (Joseph & Taplin, 2010). In the analysis of the disclosed information it is assumed that the extent of disclosure represents the relative importance of the disclosed issue to the reporting organization. A larger amount of disclosure indicates a higher importance (Gray, Kouhy & Lavers, 1995).
A content analysis can be conducted by two different methods. The disclosed information can be examined and quantified by counting words or sentences, which will provide the researcher with absolute numbers for the items on the specified disclosure index. This method is called disclosure abundance. The alternative method, disclosure occurrence, is conducted by an examination of the disclosed information and a comparison to the disclosure index in order to determine the existence, or non-existence, of the items in the index (Joseph & Taplin, 2010). The latter method can be extended by a score system developed by Clarkson, Richardson and Vasvari (2008). Their method seeks to score each item in the disclosure index on a scale of 0-6, where the score is based on the number of dimensions included in each disclosure, without differentiating the weight of dimensions.
A disclosure index can be explained as a checklist containing different items the users ought to investigate in their research. A disclosure index can be used in various ways. Scores could be determined by the user and either be graded e.g. 1-5 or simply 1 or 0 depending on whether the item on the list is included in the researched content or not.
The disclosure index used in this study has been created from to the content element Strategy and Resource Allocation in the <IR> Framework. Previous studies have made use of the GRI standards, due to its clarity and connectivity to integrated reporting, when constructing disclosure indexes, for example Clarkson et al. (2008). This study however, aims to discover whether the strategic information disclosed by the selected population of Swedish companies have increased with the introduction of the <IR> Framework. The use of the GRI standards are therefore not considered as the best choice as a basis for the disclosure index of this study. The index will be created from the <IR> Framework where the purposed disclosure of information from the content element Strategy and Resource Allocation has been used as a basis for the index.
For this study a disclosure occurrence method (Joseph & Taplin, 2010) has been used to conduct our research. It has provided information on whether a company disclose the information in compliance with the <IR> Framework, for every item on the index, or not. The disadvantage of both disclosure occurrence and disclosure abundance methods lies within the presence of subjectivity. In a disclosure abundance method risk of subjectivity lies within the choice of unit, where sentences are favored over words, the influence of subjectivity will be present when converting the disclosure in tables and figures into numbers (Unerman 2000b). This may result in counting the sentences multiple times, hence distort the quantitative measure. As this study requires a disclosure index based on the <IR> Framework, which at its core enhances connectivity among different disclosures in the annual reports, a disclosure abundance method is not a favorable choice as the risk of multiple counting is eminent. The risk of subjectivity for a disclosure abundance method is more eminent when determining the separation of items on the disclosure index (Joseph & Taplin, 2010). For example, The extent to which environmental and social considerations have been embedded into the organization´s strategy, where environmental and social could be classified as a single or two different items. If treated as one item, there is a risk of giving a company one point for disclosing one of the items and another company one point for disclosing both items, hence the quantitative measure would be distorted (Joseph & Taplin, 2010). In order to avoid substantial influence of subjectivity the disclosure index was tested on annual reports, revised and repeated until both authors accepted the quality of the index
The Constructed Disclosure Index
For the initial disclosure index, the items from the content element Strategy and Resource Allocation in the <IR> Framework were directly transferred on to the checklist in order to have a solid base with close connections to the framework. The items of the index were determined and coded in accordance to how they are presented in the framework, with a specified main topic, followed by suggestions of how it could be included in the report. In order to provide a better understanding of the process of developing the final disclosure index, the different indexes will be disclosed beneath, together with explanations of exclusions and rearrangements.
The initial index, as illustrated in Table 1, was tested on annual reports, for various companies within our sample, in order to determine whether it was possible to use it in its current form and if it would allow the authors to collect the data needed to answer the stated research questions. After the first test run it became evident that due to the structure upon which the <IR> Framework is constructed there had to be some rearrangements in order for the items to be mutually exclusive and to eliminate uncertainties regarding terms with unclear definitions. The first exclusions made were the items of medium term. The authors argue that if a company reports on the short and long term, it could easily be interpreted as an inclusion of medium term, which would give the company an extra point. This could also mean that if a company only report on the short term it would lose two points. The exclusion was also based on the lack of definition of medium term as well as the realization that medium term could be differently defined by different companies, depending on their area of business. The second exclusions made from the first test run was the item Affect the capitals. Since the study aims to discover how strategically integrated companies are in relation to the six capitals, these had already been divided as separate items. This implies that companies could get one extra point for just reporting on some of the capitals, while others would also get one point even if they reported on all the capitals.
In order to keep the index in line with the purpose and to answer the stated research questions the authors found it necessary to emphasize focus on each capital individually in order to allow the index to provide them with useful data. The revised version was constructed as illustrated in Table 2.
The second version puts more emphasis on each individual capital in order to examine whether companies report more or less on certain capitals, allowing the authors to collect data in order to make comparisons not just between companies and years on the total aggregated score, but also to compare among the different capitals By testing the revised version on annual reports the authors realized that further adjustments had to be made in order for the index to provide a healthy set of data. Once again the definition of time frame became apparent and since the <IR> Framework does not define short or long-term it is hard to assess the reported information in a non-subjective manner, since companies might have different definitions of these terms. Hence both short and long term were excluded from the index.
Further exclusions were made based on the fact that some items on the index were dependent on whether the companies were conducting any changes to their business model or strategy during the reporting year, hence companies could receive one point just for making changes in their strategy or business model. Hence the items Intended implementation of strategy and Resource allocation plan to implement strategy were excluded for every capital item, as well as Changes in business model.
Influence of external environment was also excluded due to the inclusion of external risk and external opportunity, which could result in one extra point for just reporting on risk or opportunity, while companies whom report on both only would get one point.
After the second revision, which resulted in the index illustrated in Table 3, it was once again tested on annual reports, to see if any further adjustments were needed. The index numbers were changed from the initial numbers, which were referring to the content element items in the <IR> Framework in order to make the index easier to understand
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.3 Purpose and research questions
2 Theoretical framework
2.1 Integrated reporting
2.2 Previous Studies
2.3 Stakeholder Theory
2.4 Legitimacy Theory
2.5 Voluntary Disclosure Theory
3.1 Research Approach
3.2 Research Design
4 Empirical data
4.1 Findings 2011
4.2 Findings 2012
4.3 Findings 2013
4.4 Findings 2014
4.5 Disclosure of six capitals items
4.6 Highest scoring companies
4.7 Lowest scoring companies
4.8 Aggregated total compliance per year
5 Results and analysis
5.1 Total scores per company and year
5.2 Protruding companies
5.3 The Six Capitals
5.4 Other items
5.5 Critical Reflection
6.1 Main findings and conclusions
6.2 Ethical issues
6.3 Future studies
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT