Is voluntary International Integrated Reporting Framework adoption a step on the sustainability road and does adoption matter to capital markets?
Purpose This paper aims to examine the type of firms that voluntarily adopt the International Integrated Reporting Framework (IIRF) and how markets respond to voluntary IIRF adherence. Design/methodology/approach Analysis of a matched global sample of listed firms that voluntarily adopt the IIRF (IIRF firms) and those that do not (non-IIRF firms). The samples range from 188 to 436 observations as alternative research designs, different matched samples and regression specifications, and several sensitivity analyses were conducted. Findings In markets where integrated reporting (IR) is not mainstream, voluntary IIRF adoption is more likely for firms with established sustainability practices. Such findings suggest that the IIRF is an incremental innovation for sustainability rather than an innovation that radically changes management and reporting practices. In Japan, where IR is mainstream, results show no observable differences between IIRF firms and non-IIRF firms. Consistent with the determinants results, this paper finds no evidence of associations between voluntary IIRF adoption and the information environment, the cost of equity or firm value. However, the additional analysis provides preliminary evidence suggesting capital market effects may differ for IIRF firms with higher sustainability or market performance. Practical implications This study offers useful insights into the current global debate on whether there is value in adopting the IIRF. Originality/value This study adds to the limited body of research on the determinants and consequences of voluntary IIRF adoption, offering insights for regulators, practitioners and proponents of IR. This study is the first to provide quantitative evidence of the influence sustainability practices have on voluntary IIRF adoption. Further, the results add to the current global debate on whether there is value in adopting the IIRF. This paper finds that voluntary IIRF adoption has no clear and distinct influence on disclosure practices and capital markets, suggesting there are no additional benefits from prioritising the promotion or adoption of the IIRF over other disclosure forms. Unless there are advancements supporting the implementation of integrated thinking and information connectivity, the potential for the IIRF to improve information quality may be limited to encouraging more non-financial disclosure and transparency in countries where integrated disclosures are not trending.