The RNLI wins the award for the second successive year with a highly engaging and visually appealing annual report, based once again on the theme of ‘One Courageous Community’. The detailed coverage of the RNLI’s strategy, achievements and ways of working is brought to life through powerful case studies, which drew praise both from the independent judging panel and ‘people’s panel’. The judges also liked the strong focus on sustainability, both of the RNLI itself and also of its communities and surrounding environment. One member of the judging panel described the RNLI’s reporting as “compelling, vibrant and explicit,” while another added: “The RNLI has captured the relationship between its core purpose and social role, and linked both to its fundraising. That puts it out in front for me.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Darren Spivey, Mark Wood CBE
Cancer Research UK is highly commended for the second year on the run, for an annual report that is set apart by its clarity and long-term focus. The charity’s current-year actions and impacts are clearly described, and set within the context of its goal of three in four cancer sufferers surviving the condition by 2034 – a long-term perspective that was praised both by the independent judging panel and ‘people’s panel’. “I would love more charities to be as clear and open as this about their long-term trajectory,” commented one judge. Another praised the “humility” of the reporting, including a readiness to admit mistakes and thank donors for their contributions: “Cancer Research is very clear on where its cash comes from – and also where it goes.”
Shortlisted for this award in 2015, Save the Children UK is highly commended once again for a much-improved annual report. The judges praised the charity’s openness about performance against targets and clear commitment to being accountable for outcomes. “I really like the accountability indicators, and the fact that they’re so honest about reviewing their contracts,” commented one panel member. Save the Children's risk reporting was also singled out for praise by the judges and the ‘people's panel’, with its detailed coverage of risks and mitigating actions being accompanied by a narrative setting out the wider context.
Unilever wins this year’s FTSE 350 award with comprehensive but highly engaging and insightful reporting based around its purpose and the “Unilever Sustainable Living Plan” (USLP). The judging panel and members of the people's panel praised the company’s ability to embed its commitment to sustainability and societal contribution throughout its reporting. The coverage of the company’s value chain is especially impressive, taking in both upstream and downstream impacts. The signposting, insights into the group’s business model and evidence of progress made were also singled out for positive comment. One judge commented: “I admire the direction the company is taking with the USLP. In some areas – like the safety of aquatic life systems – they’re actually getting ahead of where consumers are.” Another panel member added that “Unilever sets a standard for others to follow,” while a third described its its annual report as “Quite simply a fantastic read.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Graeme Pitkethly, Sir Stephen O'Brien CBE
SSE is highly commended for reporting that tackles the company’s challenges head-on and is marked out by strong use of graphics to summarise complex issues at a glance. One judge commented: “Commendably, SSE has not tried to minimise the problems it faces individually as a company or collectively as an industry. Issues like tax, dividends, energy costs and the difficulty of meeting environmental targets are all addressed.” The reporting provides a clear overview of SSE’s purpose and contribution to society, backed up by strong explanations of the governance structure supporting these elements, and explicit identification of the business’s key issues by stakeholder group.
Go-Ahead – the FTSE 250’s sole representative on the shortlist – was praised for its strong description of its vision and strategy, linked directly to its contribution to society. As the judges noted, Go-Ahead’s performance against its KPIs is presented clearly and honestly, with a clear link to its societal impact. Also, engagement with the full range of stakeholders comes across as a boardroom priority, with strong recognition of the Board’s role in this area. One judge commented: “Go-Ahead’s reporting reads well and covers a lot of ground, with a good focus on customer safety.”
The shortlist from this award, which is new this year, came from three different sectors – charities, the public sector and the FTSE. The voting was so close that the judges have announced two joint winners (shown in alphabetical order below).
Action for Children becomes an inaugural joint winner of this award with an energising and engaging annual report that focuses strongly on outcomes delivered. The report is brought to life by striking use of infographics, the charity’s reporting is set apart by a methodology for measuring the impact of its activities for vulnerable children that is highly transparent and distinctive in its sector. “This charity is up against some much bigger organisations – and I was very taken with its innovative way of measuring and reporting its impacts,” said one judge. Another added: “It’s essentially a ‘distance travelled’ measure, and most charities have that. But what Action for Children has done is translate it into imagery that can be communicated externally. It definitely does build public trust.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, John O'Brien, Charles Scott, Camilla Marcus-Dew
The Crown Estate’s annual report – described as “fantastic” by one judge – is built around a clear articulation of the organisation’s ‘Total Contribution’ methodology and a highly visual explanation of how this fits within The Crown Estate’s business model. The reporting sets out that ‘everything is connected’ and includes a detailed overview of positive and negative flows of its different capitals to provide a better understanding of the organisation’s impacts, complete with a value of its overall impact on the UK economy and society. One judge said: “What I find most impressive is the long-term nature of The Crown Estates’ approach. It’s good to see the numbers and be able to put a business value on what it does.” Another summed up: “This is reporting that doesn’t just answer the obvious questions, but looks beyond them.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Kate Bower, Camilla Marcus-Dew
In the judges’ view, Marks & Spencer’s reporting shows clearly that it has listened closely to its customers and other stakeholders, and has aligned its reboot of ‘Plan A’ accordingly. The reporting around the company’s performance is transparent and accessible, and there’s a clear focus on the need to keep improving its impacts to maintain Plan A’s forward momentum. One judge commented: “The chairman admirably confronts the financial impact of major changes to the business, and accepts responsibility.” Another added: “M&S shows that it’s doing a much better job of finding out what people are thinking and then applying the results.”
First-time nominee Bakkavor wins the award with a well-presented and highly readable annual report set apart by its detailed insights into the company’s supply chain. The report begins by providing a clear overview of Bakkavor’s purpose and contribution to society, and goes on to develop strong linkage between the business’s focus areas and principal stakeholders. “This is a clear and thorough introduction to a business whom most people know little about,” commented a member of the judging panel. “The sense of drive, purpose and performance prudently managed is palpable.” Another added: “The company’s values come across very clearly. Its work in the community is very impressive, as is its attention to the quality of its products.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Peter Gates, Tamarin Bibow, Sir Brendan Barber
Shortlisted for this award last year and winner in 2015, John Lewis maintains its strong track record with another well-designed and highly engaging annual report. The judges were impressed by the detailed and accessible coverage of the company’s supply chain impacts – both upstream and downstream – and the easy-to-use interactive report & accounts on its website. The reporting also includes strong statements of the company’s vision and strategy, tied to its societal contribution, and a clear explanation of its governance structure with a focus on stakeholder engagement. Honesty was picked out as a further positive – with one judge commenting: “John Lewis has had some challenges this year, and the fact that they address these so openly is very powerful.”
Another of last year’s highly commended companies returns with a well-signposted annual report that makes excellent use of infographics, and succeeds in being readable and easily navigable while presenting a wealth of information. The reporting on KPIs is especially detailed and open, with performance against targets presented over three years, including instances where targets haven’t been met. The KPIs are backed up with comparisons against third-party industry benchmarks. The company’s vision, strategy, societal contribution, environmental impact and governance structure are well explained and interlinked. “This is good, clear reporting on a complex industry that many people find difficult to understand,” commented a judge.
Network Rail wins the award for the second successive year with concise and readable reporting supported by good use of graphics. The risk reporting is strong, and there are clear descriptions of the activities undertaken to limit Network Rail’s environmental and social impacts – a point also picked up by the ‘people’s panel’. One member of the independent judging panel added: “The reporting has many of the same strengths as last year: the annual report and accounts has a clear table of KPIs, and the organisation is open about the challenges it faces.” Another of the judges praised Network Rail’s “honesty” in its up-front disclosure of instances where targets had been missed.
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Paul Marshall, Kate Mathers
Highly commended last year, Highways England makes the shortlist once again with a well-signposted report that explicitly links its performance against KPIs to its environmental impacts. “The reporting is easy to engage with,” commented a judge. “There’s good use of case studies to bring the narrative to life, and societal issues are well-covered.” A comprehensive governance section is supplemented by reporting on the board performance review during the year and the actions taken in response. The judges also liked the sectoral coverage of Highways England’s engagement with local communities.
The Ministry of Justice’s annual report sets out its overall mission and strategic objectives up front, and follows up with a frank evaluation of its performance. The judges noted the MOJ’s readiness to be open about its challenges and areas of underperformance, and the disclosures on actions taken to address them. “I can start to see some linkage in the reporting between where taxpayers’ money has been spent and the results for society,” commented one of the judges. “You have to remember that the MOJ is dealing with some of the UK’s most challenging social issues.”