Involuntary disclosure of intellectual capital: is it relevant?

John Dumay*, James Guthrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present an exploratory essay evaluating whether involuntary intellectual capital disclosure (ICD) is value relevant to stakeholders. The authors define involuntary disclosure as “what external stakeholders and stakeseekers disclose about a company”. This essay is timely because it lays the foundations for future ICD research that departs from traditional analyses of corporate reports, especially annual reports. Design/methodology/approach: The paper provides a critical reflection on current and future developments in ICD research. The normative arguments rely on the experience and expertise along with examples from the ICD literature and contemporary business media to critique existing ICD research and practice and to offer new ways forward for future research. Findings: In highlighting the limitations of the traditional ICD literature, the authors provide a foundation from which researchers should contemplate a powerful new force in ICD brought about by the rapid transformation in technologies and forces of mass communication. The authors introduce the concept of “involuntary disclosure”, and highlight several key issues that intellectual capital (IC) researchers should consider if they want their academic endeavours to contribute not only to practice, but to a wider environmental and social good. Practical implications: Involuntary disclosures produced by stakeholders and stakeseekers introduce opportunities and threats to organisations, bringing new risks that impact share value and reputations. How well organisation manage these risks, and the impact inside and outside organisational boundaries, to provide economic, environmental and social value, should provide ample fuel for future transformational IC research. Originality/value: The most value relevant disclosures are not what an organisation discloses or reports about itself, but rather what stakeholders and stakeseekers communicate. However, how reliable are involuntary disclosures and how can stakeholders and organisations verify IC disclosures coming from outside the organisation? If involuntary IC disclosures are value relevant, how might organisations seek to influence and manage them to serve their ends?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-44
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Intellectual Capital
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Annual reports
  • Intellectual capital disclosure research and practice
  • Involuntary disclosure
  • Qualitative information
  • Social media
  • Value relevance


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