A U.S. View on Integrated Thinking and Reporting

In the last month or so, I’ve attended a program on Integrated Reporting and another on Integrated Thinking in New York, both organized by Skytop Strategies. Skytop has been boldly moving forward with an agenda of programs designed to bring together a diverse group of integrated thinkers in the U.S.

I’m excited that there is a growing community in the U.S. And it’s fun to compare and contrast the movement here with what I saw at the IIRC Convention in London. First of all, it’s important to note that, while the U.S. community is watching the integrated reporting movement closely, it is not following the model faithfully (not that anyone is—the idea is to allow diverse experimentation around the world). And in the U.S. it’s less about the reporting side of things. In fact, if you look at the IIRC examples database for North America, you’ll see just ten listings. To date, only Clorox and Smithfield Foods specifically call their publications “Integrated Reports.” Other companies bring integrated thinking to their traditional and/or sustainability reports. And many more (in U.S. and abroad) have their own names like net positive (King Fisher), net good (British Telecomm), total contribution (Crown Estate), shared value (Nestle) and net-works cycles (Interface). Others included core capacity, accountability, systems thinking.

So reporting is just one part of the story. (Many would say that reporting is just a catalyst to drive integrated thinking and that the thinking is the ultimate goal). In his keynote at the Skytop Integrated Thinking Symposium, Ralph Thrum framed this by talking about moving beyond the “license to operate” perspective of sustainability and CSR to a concept of thrivability and a “license to grow.” I like this because it gets to the area where I have always used these ideas: to use integrated thinking to drive growth and innovation.

My contribution was on a panel about what’s missing in existing guidance. I had laid out my position in Integrated Thinking: What's Missing that the roots of the movement really come from people trying to unite two completely different conversations—traditional and sustainability. . It was clear in both London and New York that this is still the driving dynamic. But these two are missing the internal sustainability view that takes into account the non-traditional, intangible assets that drive a company’s value creation capabilities.

It’s still early days for this movement. But I’m excited by what Skytop is doing. I met some great people and heard a lot of honest assessments by people on the frontlines striving to integrate thinking across their organizations. Skytop has lots more programs coming up including a deep dive on preparing an integrated report hosted by VMWare in January that will include a presentation by Clorox on how they developed their report.

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