Insights on corporate reporting

Explore commentary from the experts below who share their insights on the latest trends and best practices in corporate reporting, following their involvement in the 2016 awards. They also provide recommendations for how organisations can improve their corporate reporting.

Charles Tilley OBE, Chair of the judging panel

Executive Chairman, CGMA Research Foundation

Having sat on the Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Awards judging panels for eight years, including six as chairman, I’ve enjoyed a unique vantage point from which to track developments in corporate reporting. And I’m delighted to say that the overall trend remains one of steady improvement – albeit with some organisations progressing faster than others. I’m also glad to say that this year has been no exception to the general rise in quality.

That said, I would add a couple of observations. One is that we’ve never seen an organisation outperform all the others in every single aspect of reporting at once. So even the leaders in corporate reporting – as represented by our nominees – still have something to learn from their peer organisations, both within their own sectors and in others.

My other observation springs from discussions on the judging panels about how to improve reporting in the future, and consequently build greater trust in the story companies are communicating. Building on the positive developments in the reporting from those shortlisted, we felt organisations could usefully focus on three areas in particular.

  • The first is greater succinctness. Even some otherwise very good reports have a degree of duplication and clutter, which impede clear and open communication. Organisations should try to make their reports as clear, concise and simple as possible.
  • The second area is demonstrating closer connectivity between the organisation’s strategic objectives, mission and business model. The organisations that achieve the clearest linkage take their reporting to a different level from the rest.
  • The third focus area is better balance. Selective reporting that avoids awkward facts and paints a remorselessly rosy picture simply won’t be believed. Much better to admit to missed targets or mistakes and explain the remedial actions.       

The organisations nominated this year made a real effort to get all these areas right at once – and were clearly focused on rising to the challenge of producing excellent reporting. While there’s always room for improvement, I’d like to congratulate them for exhibiting the transparency, honesty and credibility that can help to build public trust. I’d also like to thank my fellow judges once again for their invaluable insights and hard work – and for making my job as chairman both easy and enjoyable.

Sir Amyas Morse KCB

Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office

The National Audit Office is delighted to join PwC once again as co-sponsor of the ‘Excellence in reporting’ award in the public sector.

I’m equally pleased to report that the past year has once again seen a marked improvement in the overall quality of the reporting by public sector organisations, with many organisations narrowing the gap on the higher-scoring reports from previous years. Given the extensive and complex reporting requirements that apply to major government bodies, it’s encouraging that so many of them are visibly striving to make their reporting more accessible and readable.

However, despite the general improvement, we saw relatively little progress at the top end, with the best public sector reporting failing to make further headway. This was reflected by the fact that none of last year’s nominated bodies made it onto this year’s shortlist. While still producing good reports, they hadn’t made sufficient progress to justify being included again.

Looking across public sector reporting in general, the main improvements seen this year include a more logical flow to the reports, and a trend towards using clearer diagrams and pictorials to help explain organisational structures and performance. This year’s nominees exhibit all these improvements, while also making good progress in the areas of transparency, clarity of message and linking risks to strategy and performance.

Talking of risk reporting, this is still an area where we see a high level of variability, with some government entities simply noting that they have a risk management process in place. This clearly isn’t enough. Also, the judging panels for this year’s awards felt that there is still too much ‘positive spin’ in some public sector reporting, as opposed to frank and balanced communication.

That said, the good news is that progress continues to be made, and I’m confident that the momentum will be maintained. The NAO’s involvement with these awards remains part of our wider commitment to helping raise the standards of reporting by public bodies. We look forward to continuing to work with HM Treasury, our clients and other stakeholders, including PwC, to sustain the progress in the years ahead.

Kevin Ellis

Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC 

We’re delighted to present the corporate reporting awards, including the public sector award in association with the National Audit Office. Over the last 14 years we’ve broadened the Building Public Trust programme to involve an ever wider range of stakeholders in debate and other engagement initiatives, including the launch five years ago of our annual Building Public Trust debates for leaders across all sectors. 

This year the feelings of inequality and distrust towards big business and organisations more widely, have been reignited by the EU Referendum debate. My view is that to rebuild public trust in business, we need to work harder to demonstrate shared values with the communities in which we operate.

I believe two important ingredients in making this happen are transparency and humanity. This year we also convened focus groups around the country to listen to and engage members of the public around this trust agenda, generating further insights into how organisations can earn and build trust.

The awards themselves remain at the heart of the Building Public Trust programme, recognising and celebrating the best reporting by UK listed companies, public sector bodies, registered charities and private businesses. Our view remains that open, honest and accessible communication is key to creating the understanding that underpins trust.  With these awards we showcase and reward the organisations leading the way in this vital area.

This year our judging panels noted a continued improvement in the quality of reporting across virtually all categories, a testament to organisations’ continued efforts to push the boundaries of their reporting.

There are still areas for improvement in corporate reporting in general, as mentioned both by the BPTA judging panel Chairman Charles Tilley, and also by Amyas Morse of the NAO in their respective comments on this year’s awards. However, at a time when trust is in short supply, more and more organisations, not least this year’s nominees, are making great progress towards the clear and authentic reporting that builds public trust. We can all learn from them, and look forward to further progress in the years to come.

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