Re-theorizing the configuration of organizational fields: the IIRC and the pursuit of ‘Enlightened’ corporate reporting

Christopher Humphrey, Brendan O'Dwyer, Jeffrey Unerman

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This paper studies the emergence of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and its attempts to institutionalize integrated reporting as a practice that is critical to the relevance and value of corporate reporting. Informed by Suddaby and Viale's (2011) theorization of how professionals reconfigure organizational fields, the paper delineates the strategies and mechanisms through which the IIRC has sought to enrol the support of a wide range of stakeholder groups for the idea of integrated reporting in order to deliver a fundamental reconfiguration of the corporate reporting field. The paper’s analysis reinforces the significance to any such field reconfiguration of the reciprocal and mutual arrangements between influential professionals and other powerful actors but does so in a way that (a) refines Suddaby and Viale’s theorization of processes of field-level change and (b) pinpoints the fundamental policy challenges facing the IIRC. Gieryn’s (1983) notion of boundary work is operationalized to capture some of the complexity and dynamism of the change process that is not sufficiently represented by Suddaby and Viale’s more sequentialist theorization. From a policy perspective, the paper demonstrates just how much the IIRC’s prospects for success in reconfiguring the corporate reporting field depend on its ability to reconfigure the mainstream investment field. Ultimately, this serves to question whether the IIRC’s conceptualization of ‘enlightened’ corporate reporting is sufficiently powerful and persuasive to stimulate ‘enlightened’ investment behaviour focused on the medium and long term – and, more generally stresses the theoretical significance of considering connections across related organizational fields in institutional analyses of field reconfiguration efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-63
Number of pages34
JournalAccounting and Business Research
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Integrated reporting
  • corporate reporting
  • IIRC
  • organizational field
  • accountancy profession
  • institutional work
  • boundary work
  • sustainability reporting
  • non-financial reporting
  • enlightened investment behaviour

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