INTEgrated REporting for SMEs Transparency, the INTEREST project supported by the ERASMUS+ programme of the European Union.

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INTEREST core partners have been working for several years on research-based curriculum development projects aimed at helping SMEs to cope with the continuous renewal of social and economic challenges of the society.

Needs identification

Major projects, mostly supported by the EU, went on, and are still going on, in diverse fields from classic knowledge-competence-skill development of SMEs to handling generational changes, from family businesses to SME-mentor training developments or from legal-corporate support to sustainability issues.
Not only have the topics varied in this project chain but also pedagogical approaches have overarched traditional classroom training, e-learning and blended-learning courses, and mentor supports by internationally certified mentors.
The genesis of each project could be found in the precursors and the ramifications of each project, which gave birth to new project ideas.

One of the important fallouts of the mentioned cooperation chain was that accountability of the SMEs leaves much to be desired in general and that reporting practices hardly go beyond financial reporting in particular. In fact, more integrated reporting, incorporating the process of integrated thinking, on capabilities (knowledge, competences, skills, experience, etc.) is needed.

State of play analysis

The decision to invest in the INTEREST project was preceded by drawing up an overview of the state of play of IR (Integrated Reporting) of companies in Europe and SMEs in particular. This preparatory activity was carried out together with the members of the partnership. The selection of these partners went on the basis of their readiness to participate in this work and also on their track record in the field of Non-Financial Reporting (NFR).

  • It appread that large international consortia are currently pursuing in-depth research in the field, for instance:
    • IIRC,
    • International Integrated Reporting Council,
    • and IFAC, International Federation of Accountants.
  • We have also realised that the recent and ongoing projects focus on comparative research and on bringing alignment to corporate reporting in the world, among the multiple different and conflicting reporting frameworks.

In order to avoid replication of these consortia our partnership contacted several of them (and invited two of them to be partners) and wish to use their results to achieve our clearly distinguished goals: to develop practical and educational support services for SMEs in Integrated Reporting (IR).

Companies and SMEs

The partners realised that large/international companies are much more advanced in complex corporate reporting on their value creation processes than SMEs. The international network EFAA, European Federation of Accountants and Auditors for SMEs pursued investigation on the ‘trickle down’ effect from practices of large companies to smaller ones. This gave our partnership rich background material for the conceptualisation of this project.

One approach of the large companies is to prepare their reports on the basis of 6 capitals (Financial capital, Manufactured capital, Intellectual capital, Human capital, Social and relationship capital and Natural capital), which is still considered a relatively new but evolving field.
One of the objectives of this project is to develop a proposal for the SMEs’ reporting from the experience of the large undertakings.

Intellectual outputs
  1. IO1 – <IR> Framework for SMEs. The starting point of this project is to get acquainted with and collate the provisions of existing non-financial reporting frameworks for SMEs, together with existing practical experiences with <IR> in the Member States represented in the consortium. After having consolidated the “six capital” approach, the consortium set out the objective to devise a reference framework for <IR> designed in such a way to allow easy adoption by SMEs and avoid overburdening their management.
  2. IO2 – <IR> Guide for SMEs. On the basis of the <IR> Framework, a practical handbook on how to measure and communicate SME performance in an integrated perspective will be developed. The handbook will provide operational guidance on how to keep track of value creation in such a way to satisfy the information needs of both internal decision-makers (SME owners and managers) and external stakeholders (funding agencies, customers, suppliers, unions, regulators, etc.).
  3. IO3 – <IR> Curriculum for SMEs. To help understand the concepts and use the tools featured in the Guide, the consortium will test and make available a set of learning units on how to measure and communicate value creation in the specific context of SMEs. Taking into account the time constraints of intended beneficiaries, a mixture of interactive workshops, online contents and work-based units will be used to make learning more attractive and easily accessible.

On top of these deliverables, an overarching medium-term objective is to introduce integrated thinking among European SMEs. This objective makes dissemination activities of outstanding importance. The dissemination capabilities of partners and associated partners are a token of the success of this medium-term objective, a result in itself of the INTEREST project.


Dr. Péter Soltész and László Varga
BBS - Budapest Business School
29-31 Markó Street,
H-1055 Budapest, Hungary
INTEREST project
EU flag Erasmus+
This project has been funded by the ERASMUS + programme of the European Union. The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.