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An interview with Joshua Rayan, an ICDM affiliate member. He talks about his passion for integrated reporting and what it means for companies that can truly internalise its significance.

You seem like a creative person. Could you tell us more about yourself, and what shapes your passion in storytelling? I believe that life is an adventure and that we are all here for a bigger reason; a higher purpose beyond just earning a living and executing a particular task or job. Joshua Rayan Communications (JRC) came to be based on a mission to progressively realise the creation of a more transparent, accountable and empowered corporate reporting landscape. We believe in the value of such reporting in building a better company, society, country and ultimately, the world.

My team and I have been writing reports for almost two decades now and what is truly encouraging is to see the progressive change in the mindset of board directors and decision makers, towards embracing what we call “ART” Reporting – reporting that is accountable, reliable and transparent.

Our role is not to be mere wordsmiths. Rather, we play a fundamental role in encouraging more strategic, open and empowering reporting that benefits stakeholders as well as the company. It is this realisation that drives our continued passion in working with public listed companies in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

When you have had clients for up to eight consecutive years; working together on their corporate disclosures and you see the progress they continue to make year-on-year, our work is its own reward.

“The beauty of integrated reporting is that it encourages or even compels an organisation and its people, to truly understand its business model, risks and opportunities and its consumption of capitals or resources and the ensuing impacts from such consumption, be it positive or negative.”

You are an integrated reporting <IR> practitioner. While many recognise its importance in delivering meaningful and engaging information, they also see <IR> as a tedious, resource-intensive undertaking. What are your thoughts on that? The truth is, <IR> is neither difficult nor complex. <IR> is the product of integrated thinking. The true goal of <IR> is to help organisations develop strategic, connected thinking, which is being able to understand the dynamic relationships between the organisation’s business model and its external and internal operating environments.

The beauty of <IR> is that it encourages or even compels an organisation and its people, to truly understand its business model, risks and opportunities and its consumption of capitals or resources and the ensuing impacts from such consumption, be it positive or negative.

The better an organisation’s level of integrated thinking, the more robust and prepared it is to face the future and to continue delivering stakeholder value. Such an organisation will also be more ready to navigate challenges and embrace emerging opportunities amidst a turbulent, fast-changing and uncertain world.

With the support of an experienced <IR> partner, transitioning or enhancing one’s integrated reporting is actually not that difficult as some may perceive. On the contrary, <IR> is concise yet comprehensive. We have done this for our clients and will continue to advocate the JRC approach to effective <IR> adoption over a 3-year journey, especially for first year adopters.

Boards, especially in the post-Covid-19 world, are expected to think beyond profit, and more holistically about risks and opportunities for long-term value creation. How do you see boards play a more critical role in accelerating the implementation of <IR>, as part of their broader stakeholder engagement strategy? I agree. The role of the board is certainly crucial in adopting <IR>, not just in the production of an integrated report, but in the cultivation of integrated thinking. Integrated thinking and strategic direction often start at the top. Boards are pivotal in driving such thinking across the organisation. Stakeholders, especially providers of capital and shareholders are looking to see how boards are enabling their companies to navigate the present turbulence and uncertainty.

In my view, boards should be considering, amongst other things some of the following: the breaking down of operational silos, the development of shared knowledge and information; the creation of cross-functional teams, how does Environmental, Social andGovernance (ESG) issues impact financial performance? Do we have this quantified? What are our present and emerging risks? How do these risks impact resource allocation and business strategies and so on?

At the very least, board members should be considering such questions; even if the answers are not available. The first step is asking the right questions, from which the answers that are sought will come through integrated thinking and <IR>. If boards and senior management are not even asking these questions towards achieving a stronger level of integrated thinking, how would they as captains of the ship, sail through the present storm?

Our role is to assist boards,senior management and the organisation, especially public listed companies in progressively realising this level of integration over time, and not just in producing an integrated report. This includes training and advisory services across the year.

“The better an organisation’s level of integrated thinking, the more robust and prepared it is to face the future and to continue delivering stakeholder value.”

Speaking about the role of the board, there has also been discussion that current boards are largely too left-brained, and there is a need to refresh the board with new expertise, such as a communications expert or someone from the creative industry who can provide a different perspective when it comes to stakeholder engagement and reputation building. As a communications expert for close to two decades, how do you think that would help to change the game for the better? In today’s age, a crucial addition to the board would be sustainability expertise. Beyond just risk and governance professionals, though both of whom remain very important in ensuring a comprehensive talent mix for boards, emphasis should be on recruiting more ESG professionals.

Possessing sustainability expertise and experience at the board level empowers organisations to take stock of their performance on a triple bottom-line of people, planet and profit and to truly ascertain what is their value creation impact, across both financial and non-financial values.

Boards should consider bringing on board (no pun intended) sustainability reporting professionals or environmentalists with proven experience in initiating successful ESG programmes or even NGOs.

One advantage that sustainability reporting professionals offer is they bring both the corporate expertise as well as a vast body of ESG knowledge. These people understand the labyrinth and unique nature of corporates and at the same time are also able to help companies see and close their ESG gaps. Not just reporting gaps, but also gaps in systems, processes, governance, data collection and sustainability related strategies and action plans. They understand the challenges an organisation faces and the need to balance between financial and non-financial performance.

I believe having such individuals will enable companies to always have a unique perspective towards ensuring organisational relevance and competitive over time

A lot is going on in the world right now with 24/7 news cycle and never-ending influx of new information. How do you keep yourself organised and find clarity? I have a good team to help me. Ng Tse Mei and Low Teng Lum and other team members provide wonderful strategic support and together as a team, we push forward towards breaking new ground in what we do towards the realisation of the JRC corporate objectives.

I still use a simple MS Word planner to plan my day. And yes, family is very important in providing perspective. At the centre of it all, it has always been and will always be about family. Everything we do is towards contributing towards the betterment of corporate Malaysia, which ultimately trickles down to a better country and society for all of us and our families.

Joshua Rayan is an IIRC certified integrated reporting practitioner and GRI certified sustainability practitioner. Over his 17-year career, Joshua has penned the words of many Malaysia’s top industry captains and developed corporate reports for a large number of public listed companies in Malaysia

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