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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 2017 awards. They also provide recommendations for how organisations can improve their corporate reporting.

Kevin Ellis

Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC UK 

We’re delighted to present our Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Awards for the 15th year, including the Public Sector Reporting Award in association with the National Audit Office.

I’m delighted to say that, fifteen years on from their launch, these awards are – if anything – more relevant than when they were first presented. As we all know, the issue of public trust in institutions of all kinds, in all sectors, has never been higher up the agenda. And in the era of constant scrutiny on social media, the pressure for ever greater clarity, transparency and authenticity in organisations’ reporting can only increase.

It’s against this backdrop that we’ve introduced some important innovations to the assessment process this year, as described by Charles Tilley , chairman of our independent judging panel. As Charles notes, at the heart of these changes is an increased emphasis in the assessment criteria on organisations’ societal contribution and impacts – examining whether their reporting is fully reflected in their broader performance.

In my view, these awards are a chance to recognise examples of businesses taking positive steps to innovate in their reporting – and reflect society’s goals by looking beyond financial performance to their wider impacts on stakeholders of all types. Those that do this stand to differentiate themselves and gain deeper and more lasting trust. Organisations that continue to stay within their comfort zone risk being left behind.

The reality is that economic success and societal progress can – and often do – go hand in hand. Drawing on the example set by our nominees, I believe the stage is set for the next big step forward in corporate reporting. I urge all organisations to join this advance, and to play their full part in proving that business is capable of producing good social returns as well as good economic ones. Getting it right is not just critical for trust levels in business, but for building the stable and inclusive society we all want.

Charles Tilley OBE, Chair of the judging panel

Executive Chairman, CGMA Research Foundation

I’ve been a member of the Building Public Trust Awards (BPTA) independent judging panel for nine years, including seven as chairman. Over that time the awards and the reporting by all forms of organisations has evolved very significantly, reflecting shifts in the environment driving the need for both better reporting and trust-building. This year the judging process has seen further innovation, although of course there is still more to do.

Recognising and rewarding honest, accessible and impactful corporate reporting remains at the heart of the awards. Innovation is key in achieving these qualities, as underlined by the introduction this year of a new award for innovation in reporting in organisations of all types. And looking across all the awards, a wider change this year is that the assessment process for identifying the shortlists – and the independent judging panel’s deliberations on the winner – considered organisations’ societal contribution and impacts.

Key to this is organisations’ ability to combine the delivery of positive societal impacts with effective monitoring and reporting of those impacts, in order to demonstrate the shared value created. For our judging panel, this widening of the focus was supported by two new elements.

One was PwC’s hosting of a “people’s panel” of 15 members of the public, to assess the reporting by all the nominees. The views from the people’s panel were collected and provided as inputs to the independent judging panel. Interestingly there was consistently close alignment between the insights from the people’s panel and those of the PwC assessors and independent judges.

The other new element was that this year’s judging process had fresh input and perspectives from PwC’s tool, the ‘Trustworthy Organisation Model’ (TOM). This filters millions of digital conversations by different stakeholders to evaluate perceptions of how trustworthy an organisation is and, critically, how closely this aligns to their corporate reporting. While still at an early stage of development, this input was valuable and thought-provoking.

In combination with these new elements, we also allowed more time for discussion on each award – thus providing space for the most fruitful and wide-ranging debates I’ve experienced to date.

So, what did we make overall of this year’s crop of reports? While there was some excellent reporting in every category, our sense was that this has largely been a year of consolidation rather than innovation – with the pace of improvement seen in previous years appearing to have plateaued somewhat. We also felt that businesses, the public sector and other organisations are generally struggling to explain effectively in their reporting how they are creating value and their impact on their key stakeholders.

These challenges underline the importance of clearly addressing why an organisation’s business model is sustainable, and providing real insight into how issues are addressed. Also, a key characteristic of today’s leaders in corporate reporting across all categories is that they take pains to identify and understand their various stakeholders, and then provide a clear picture of the outcomes that the organisation’s actions have generated for them.

The organisations nominated this year are on a journey towards doing this – and I thank and congratulate them for setting a lead for others to follow. As ever, my thanks also go to my fellow judges for their hard work, insight and dedication to the cause.

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.

Government reporting matters. At a time when the public sector is facing significant challenges, good quality reporting can help build trust by “telling the story” transparently, in ways that are relevant and accessible to readers – whether those readers are Members of Parliament or members of the public.

Parliament is devoting more time to scrutinising departmental annual reporting and accounts, and is using the insight it obtains as a means to hold government to account for its performance. The Public Accounts Committee has, for example, recently held sessions which have drawn, in part, on departmental annual reports and accounts, using this reporting to highlight issues such as the long term financial sustainability of public services.

Parliament is also increasingly shining its spotlight on the quality of government’s reporting. In the past year, the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Procedure Committee have all called for changes to government reporting to support more effective Parliamentary scrutiny of how taxpayer’s money has been spent and what has been achieved.

This year, for example, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee called for reporting that provides a complete financial and performance picture of an organisation’s activity. It also highlighted that work is needed to provide greater transparency and ensure the needs of users are better met.

Good reporting should explain why public money has been spent and what has been achieved with that spend; and it should give insight into risks to delivery and success, as well as how stewardship over public funds has been exercised.

I am pleased to say that this year’s nominees for this award embody many elements of good public sector reporting, making creditable efforts to communicate transparently, with a strong emphasis on the outcomes for their stakeholders. The nominees for this award – and across all the BPTA awards – highlight what can be achieved. 

Encouraged by Parliament’s appetite for good quality reporting, I hope that public sector organisations take on board the good practice we have seen showcased this year. In my view, government bodies that do this can help kick-start the next leap forward in public sector reporting, while also differentiating themselves in terms of reputation and trust.

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 Parliament, our clients, HM Treasury and other stakeholders, including PwC, to sustain ongoing improvements in public sector reporting in the years ahead.

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