Journey or toolbox? Integrated reporting and processes of organisational change

Colin Higgins, Wendy Stubbs, Dale Tweedie, Gregory McCallum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Motivated by Morgan’s (1997) analysis of the “paradoxical” role of metaphors in understanding and managing organisations, the purpose of this paper is to assess in what respects organisations using integrated reporting (IR) are on a “journey” of organisational change.

The paper analyses IR practitioner literature to interpret the IR journey metaphor more precisely. The authors then use in-depth interviews to assess the extent to which this metaphor captures how six early adopter organisations in Australia implement IR, and what changes result, over four years.

The journey metaphor implies substantive and holistic organisational change. By contrast, the authors find organisations use IR in contextual, instrumental and piecemeal ways. The authors propose a “toolbox” metaphor to help (re)present how organisations adapt their reporting to fit decisions already made, and challenges presented, through ordinary and ongoing strategic management.

Research limitations/implications
Morgan (1997) stresses metaphors are invariably used to both describe and manage organisations. The authors’ analysis identifies specific ways the IR journey metaphor is descriptively misleading. The authors’ “toolbox” metaphor suggests different ways organisations are, or could, manage IR to create value.

This is the first paper to provide a systematic analysis of the IR journey metaphors, and to assess in what respects this metaphor captures actual organisational practice. The findings also challenge the broader notion in academic research that reporting frameworks can lead organisational change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1662-1689
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019


  • Integrated reporting
  • Metaphor
  • Organizational change
  • Sustainability reporting


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