Excellence in reporting award winners: 2016

Announced on 29 September 2016, the winners of the 2016 Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Awards for 'excellence in reporting' are showcased below.

Read comments from the independent judging panel to see how these organisations differentiated themselves through the clarity of their reporting, across the FTSE 100, FTSE 250, private, public and charity sectors. 

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Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Award for 'excellence in reporting' in the FTSE 100

Winner: Marks & Spencer Group

M&S wins the award with an open and balanced annual report, characterised by honest reporting of ‘mixed’ performance and a very detailed account of the company’s efforts to understand and respond to stakeholders’ needs. The judges were especially impressed by the reporting on governance – which begins up-front in the chairman’s statement – and by the clear and engaging remuneration report, linked explicitly to the business strategy. “It’s very coherent and well-integrated all the way through,” commented a judge. “When they haven’t achieved a target, they say so. And it’s very clear where value is created and sustained.” Another added: “This is a report that people really will be able to read. You can dip into different sections and get a flavour for the business.”  

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Helen Weir CBE and Professor Sir Charles Bean

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

BT Group

BT secures a commendation with very strong strategic reporting that is well-underpinned by its business model and more forward-looking than that from many of its FTSE 100 peers. The judges commented positively on the company’s people reporting – both in its annual report and CSR report – and on the detailed coverage of sustainability, including clear targets, stakeholder analysis and linkage to global megatrends. It was felt that the clarity of BT’s reporting was especially credible given the complexity and pace of change in its markets. “This reporting has real merits, and focuses on the big issues that are out there,” said one judge. Another commented: “It’s very comprehensive yet everything links up.” 

Legal & General Group

L&G is highly commended for reporting that succeeds in bringing a complex industry to life while telling a clear story about the company’s performance during the year. The strategic report is set apart by the strong use of market trends to underpin the narrative, and the remuneration reporting benefits from a highly engaging and easily-understandable ‘at-a-glance’ section. The judges also praised the company’s online reporting, which offers supplementary reporting insights together with features such as a ‘fast read’ version of the annual report, and video blogs on the results from senior L&G executives. 

Mondi

Refreshingly clear and succinct reporting, with the tone set early on through a concise and highly readable strategic report that provides real insight into the business at both a group and segment level. The sustainability reporting is especially detailed, and makes strong use of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to identify clear actions and commitments for 2020. The judges were also impressed by the company’s governance reporting, enlivened by good use of case studies and insightful details on the external audit process. “This reporting really clarifies things – it’s comprehensible, it flows and it makes the business understandable,” commented a judge. Another summed up: “After reading the annual report, I felt much better informed about the business.”

 

Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Award for 'excellence in reporting' in the FTSE 250

Winner: Great Portland Estates   

Great Portland Estates’ annual report hits the ground running with a strong strategic narrative that provides outstandingly detailed coverage of the market context, good insights into its key relationships and a clear account of how it creates value. The governance reporting is lively and interesting, supported by good use of case studies. And the importance of relationships highlighted through the strategic narrative is reinforced in the sustainability reporting, which gives an honest and transparent account of progress against targets. “It’s hard to fault this reporting – very clear and attractively presented,” said a judge. Another commented: “The use of graphics is excellent. I really like the timeline showing what the company actually did during the year.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Nick Sanderson and Professor Sir Charles Bean

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Cairn Energy 

Cairn Energy is highly commended for a well-designed and easily navigable annual report that features a clear strategic narrative framed around the performance of the business. The insights into performance measurement benefit from an especially informative discussion of KPIs aligned both to risk and remuneration, linking through to goals for 2016 and beyond. The sustainability section is also strong, with a clear account of how the business assesses the materiality of different issues, and the governance reporting is solid, with a coherent viability statement that goes beyond a ‘boilerplate’ approach. One judge commented: “I really like the way the KPIs are linked to the Remuneration Committee discussions. I don’t recall seeing that before, and I think it demonstrates seriously joined-up thinking.”

National Express Group  

Reporting that is well-signposted and highly readable, with industry terms clearly defined up front and then used throughout to aid understanding. The strategic report is clear and grounded in the company’s stated values, while also providing engaging insights into its markets and risks. The reporting on both governance and remuneration is also highly engaging, including good detail on non-financial conditions and a creditable effort to demonstrate the linkage between strategy and remuneration. “The at-a-glance section on the remuneration policy provides a very good overview,” commented a judge. “I also like the summary of National Express’s markets, linking the strategy to the relevant sections of the report.” 

 

Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Award for 'excellence in reporting' in the Public Sector (in association with the National Audit Office)

Winner: Network Rail

Network Rail marks its return to the public sector with a well-balanced, readable and attractively designed annual report that makes strong use of graphics. As well as reporting openly and transparently on instances where it has failed to meet KPI targets, Network Rail provides detailed yet accessible information on its risks, linking these to its strategic objectives and identifying related actions. It also goes further than many other public bodies by including a specific statement on its risk appetite. “I like the honesty of the reporting, and the fact that it names the people in charge – giving a sense of accountability,” commented a judge. Another praised the “high degree of transparency on performance and KPIs.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Paul Marshall, Sir Amyas Morse KCB

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Department of Energy & Climate Change

Now absorbed into the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, DECC’s final annual report as a distinct department is highly commended for its clarity, navigability and strong focus on the department’s strategic objectives. The reporting is well presented and follows a logical progression, aided by good use of sign-posting with icons to guide the reader and illustrate the linkage between performance and strategy. The text is frequently enlivened through strong use of graphics, most notably in the sections on governance arrangements and organisational structure. “A clear report – very simply done and concise,” said a judge. Another commented: “For me, this report does demonstrate DECC’s performance in a very clear way.”

Highways England

Highways England presents its strategic aims up-front and then sets out to describe clearly how it has tackled them, using lively cases studies to illustrate the challenges it faced during the year and the actions taken in response. Smart use of signposting throughout the report makes it easy to follow, and the use of overview graphics is impressive, especially in demonstrating performance against targets and describing the organisation’s governance structures. The regional impacts of the roads strategy are clearly articulated, through drill-downs into specific areas of the country such as the Midlands. The judges made special mention of the insights provided in the section on people, outlining the people strategy and how this supports the overall objectives.

 

Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Award for 'excellence in reporting' in Private Business

Winner: Greenergy

A well-designed and visually attractive annual report that is clearly cross-referenced throughout, making the company’s strategy and performance easy for the reader to follow. The business model is explained up front through a very effective diagram supported by concise commentary, and the Chief Executive’s review maintains the clear tone by telling a strong story about the year’s results, explaining the factors behind the increase in profit. Issues such as the importance of health & safety, the impacts of the external market environment and the company’s principal risks are also clearly explained and interlinked. “The company does a very good job of explaining itself,” commented a judge. “There’s clear follow-through from the information the management uses to the way the company presents itself publicly.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Stephen McCaffrey, Paul Lester CBE, Lady Susan Rice CBE

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

John Lewis Partnership

The winner of last year’s inaugural award for private business is highly commended this time, for a well-integrated and easily navigable annual report that sets out its performance for the year in a highly understandable way using simple questions. The new 10-year strategy starting from the next financial year is clearly explained, with references to several members of the leadership team providing a sense of ownership and accountability. The reporting of sustainability and governance is also impressive, including linkage between sustainability and strategy, and a useful ‘heat map’ of the business’s principal risks. One judge commented: “I find this reporting compelling: it flows well, it explains the business clearly, and it’s coherent throughout.”

Liverpool Victoria

A well-presented and highly informative annual report that makes outstanding use of graphics to tell a clear story. The reporting is written primarily for the business’s members, opening with sections entitled ‘Who we are’ and ‘Members’ report’, and the the year’s results and highlights are brought to life with interesting real-life case studies on members and customers. The diagram setting out the objectives and strategy is especially effective, and links clearly to the ‘brand promises’ referenced throughout the report. The judges praised the detailed reporting on KPIs, providing in-depth explanations of financial and non-financial measures linked to the strategy. “This reporting shows a great focus both on the customer and also on the business’s risks,” commented a judge. 

 

Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Award for 'excellence in reporting' in Charities

Winner: RNLI

RNLI wins the award for the first time with an honest, transparent and engaging annual report based around the consistent theme of ‘One Courageous Community’. The RNLI’s strategy, achievements, ways of working and impact are clearly explained, and coverage of the charity’s longer-term priorities and goals through to 2024 is especially detailed. The reporting on sustainability policies and impacts relating to the environment, communities and individuals is also very strong. One judge commented: “The RNLI talks more clearly and transparently about its approach to fundraising than most other charities – it’s ahead on this.” Another added: “You get a real sense of the RNLI’s long-term commitment. And the case studies are simply great.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Darren Spivey, Sir Vernon Ellis

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Cancer Research UK

Last year’s winner of this award is highly commended this time around for a clear and well-presented report that provides a wealth of detail on the charity’s aims, impacts and achievements in the past year. Cancer Research UK’s vision, objectives and strategic priorities are explained in detail and clearly aligned to the reporting of its progress during the year and priorities for next year. The issue of fundraising is also handled well, with a ‘fundraising promise’ linked to a full statement on the charity’s website. The judges also commented positively on the strong use of graphics to explain important aspects of the reporting. 

Dogs Trust

Reporting that tells a strong story in a consistent style and keeps the reader engaged throughout sees Dogs Trust highly commended for the first time at these awards. The annual report uses a distinctive ‘menu’ theme to make it easier to navigate through, and provides an especially detailed explanation of how the charity’s activities benefit the public, going significantly beyond the standard disclosures. The reporting is also open about instances where its goals for the year were not achieved. “The report has some very interesting and innovative aspects,” said one judge. “It’s clearly looking to engage hearts as well as minds – and psychologically it does this very well.”  

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