The rise of non-financial performance measures in annual reports. An analysis of ATX-listed companies

Juergen Muehlbacher, Tom Siebenaler, Ulrike Würflingsdobler

Abstract


Purpose of the article: In the past, annual reports only included financial measures. More recently, this shareholder value approach has been criticized of leading to a strategic short-term orientation. Consequently, the use of strategic performance measurement systems (SPMSs), namely the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), is proposed to communicate non-financial measures to investors and stakeholders. Besides the distribution of critical information, the disclosure of non-financial measures should strengthen the employees’ commitment to the long-term strategy. The purpose of the article is thus to reveal whether Austrian companies disclose their strategic performance measures in their annual reports.
Methodology/methods: Two observation points, 2002 and 2012, were chosen to analyse the annual reports of companies listed on the ATX. This period of time allows to observe changes as well as new trends. The annual reports have been downloaded from the companies’ homepages or received via email or post. A document and content analysis, followed by a frequency analysis, has been applied to identify several non-financial measures with regard to the following BSC-derived perspectives: Customer perspective, internal business perspective and innovation and learning perspective.
Scientific aim: The scientific aim of the following study is to examine the extent to which non-financial performance measures are displayed in annual reports.
Findings: The analysis of the annual reports showed a tremendous increase in non-financial measures in the time period between 2002 and 2012, which solely arose from the augmented disclosure activities of the innovation and learning perspective. On the other hand, the customer and internal perspectives decreased in importance. Moreover, the top ten measures in 2002 have changed and are dominated by diversity and environmental issues in the year 2012.
Conclusions: Similar findings in the literature as well as the influence of legal disclosure requirements are discussed. Possible limitations are the sole use of the Balanced Scorecard as a SPMS or the chosen time period of ten years.

Keywords


Financial reporting, Disclosure practices in annual reports, Balanced Scorecard, Strategic performance measurement systems

JEL Classification


M10, M41

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Online: 2016-05-30


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13164/trends.2016.25.9