The e-book “The Landscape of Integrated Reporting: Reflections and Next Steps” (Robert G. Eccles, Beiting Cheng, Daniela Saltzman, eds.) provides perspectives on integrated reporting, defined as
The combination of a company’s financial report and its corporate social responsibility or sustainability report into a single document (p. iii)
In a world where it is generally assumed that all information can be found on the Internet, one cannot imagine trying to obtain a company’s financial information by searching through paper reports or PDF files. Surely company financial and non-financial performance disclosures are available online and analysis of the information, metrics and narrative contained in these reports can be done with the click of a mouse.
For financial information in a number of markets around the world this is true, and has been a reality for over a decade. How? Through the implementation of a technology called eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). Currently, the use of XBRL is largely restricted to financial information however, as a technology—and as its name suggests—XBRL is highly adaptable. It can be applied for general business reporting, and there are a number of global initiatives looking to leverage XBRL for non-financial reporting, e.g., environmental, social and governance reporting. (p. 155)
There are a number of projects around the world that aim to use XBRL in a non- financial context, and where XBRL taxonomies have been developed. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has published the GRI Taxonomy to reflect GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The World Intellectual Capital Initiative (WICI) is conducting a similar effort in the area of intellectual capital and has developed a taxonomy that reflects Gartner and Enhanced Business Reporting Consortium metrics, management discussion and analysis, and the WICI framework. There is also interest in XBRL from projects such as the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, the Carbon Disclosure Project, and the International Integrated Reporting Committee, and although XBRL implementation in the GRI and WICI projects is still in the relatively early stages, these will provide interesting findings for implementing non-financial reporting in XBRL. (p. 157)
So XBRL is emergent for non-financial metrics, such as carbon emission reporting, but has immense potential if various stakeholders can agree to a standardized taxonomy.