Business Model Disclosures in Corporate Reports

Jan Michalak, Gunnar Rimmel, Peter Beusch, Kristina Jonäll


Business Model, Disclosure Guidelines, Intellectual Capital Reports, Strategic Reports, Integrated Reports


Purpose: In this paper, we investigate the development, the current state, and the potential of business model disclosures to illustrate where, why and how organizations might want to disclose their business models to their stakeholders. The description of the business model may be relevant to stakeholders if it helps them to comprehend the company ‘story’ and increase understanding of other provided data (i.e. financial statements, risk exposure, sustainability of operations). It can also aid stakeholders in the assessment of sustainability of business models and the whole company. To realize these goals, business model descriptions should fulfil requirements of users suggested by various guidelines.

Design/Methodology/Approach: First, we review and analyse literature on business model disclosure and some of its antecedents, including voluntary disclosure of intellectual capital. We also discuss business model reporting incentives from the viewpoint of shareholders, stakeholders and legitimacy theory. Second, we compare and discuss reporting guidelines on strategic reports, intellectual capital reports, and integrated reports through the lens of their requirements for business model disclosure and the consequences of their use for corporate report users. Third, we present, analyse and compare examples of good corporate practices in business model reporting.

Findings: In the examined reporting guidelines, we find similarities, e.g. mostly structural but also qualitative attributes, in their presented information: materiality, completeness, connectivity, future orientation and conciseness. We also identify important differences between their frameworks concerning the target audience of the reports, business model definitions and business model disclosure requirements. Discontinuation of intellectual capital reporting conforming to DATI guidelines provides important warnings for the proponents of voluntary disclosure – especially for International Integrated Reporting Council guidelines. Still, because relatively few studies have examined the preparation and use of business model disclosures, we suggest areas for further research.

Originality/Value: This paper is the first that investigates, analyses, and compares the three most common reporting frameworks that contain business model reporting and disclosures.