This has been my tenth year as a member of the Building Public Trust Awards (BPTA) independent judging panel, and my eighth as chairman. Over that time, my fellow panellists and I have seen significant and ongoing evolution both in the awards themselves and also in the reporting environment for organisations of all types.
This year is no exception, with the awards continuing to develop and expand to cover more aspects of the economy and society. This widening remit underlines that the BPTA programme – like corporate reporting itself – never stands still. But what hasn’t changed is the importance of celebrating openness, by recognising and rewarding reporting that’s honest, accessible and authentic, and which engages people in ways that build trust.
So, what changes have we seen this time? In recent years, we’ve placed a growing emphasis on organisations’ societal contribution and impact. This has continued in 2018, accompanied by the creation of new awards in areas including reporting on cyber security, overseas investment, and impacts achieved by social enterprises, all presented at the BPTA dinner; and reporting in financial services, presented at the BPTA lunch. We’ve also updated the people reporting award to focus on ‘workforce fairness’ and the sustainability award to now represent purpose & impact.
A further step forward involves one of last year’s innovations – the “people’s panel” of members of the public, whose views on a subset of the nominated reports were collected and provided as inputs to the independent judging panel. Their views proved so valuable that this year the people’s panel was extended to cover all the reports. Interestingly, the close alignment I noted last year between the insights from the people’s panel and those of the PwC assessors and independent judges continued in 2018.
Which brings me to this year’s crop of reports. And I’m delighted to say that after a couple of years where consolidation seemed to dominate over innovation, our sense this time was that the leaders are once again looking to break new ground. In particular, we’re seeing a growing commitment to reporting openly and transparently on engagement with a wider range of stakeholders, and on how that engagement shapes board decisions. It was also gratifying this year to see a rich mix of new contenders on many of the shortlists.
That said, reporting is always on a journey, and the progress is faster in some award categories than others. Cyber security reporting, for example, remains an emerging and embryonic area, and one where I hope and believe BPTA’s involvement will help to raise the bar. By getting ahead of the game in this way, the awards can help to spur innovation and development in reporting – as they have, for example, in reporting by charities.
However, one area where the judging panel continued to voice a degree of disappointment this year was around public sector reporting. The members noted the ongoing lack of nominations among the largest public spending departments, and the need to integrate metrics more effectively into the narrative. More positively, they felt the nominated public sector bodies had made a very creditable effort to report in a clear, engaging and honest way.
On a personal note, I mentioned earlier that I’ve now been chairing the BPTA independent judging panel for eight years this year will be my last in the role. However, I’m stepping down secure in the knowledge that my fellow panel member Mark Wood is taking over the reins, and will do an excellent job as my successor. It only remains for me to give my wholehearted thanks to all the judges I’ve worked with over the years, and whose diverse insights and wholehearted commitment have made my job so easy. My thanks also go – of course – to PwC for making these awards happen, and for doing so much to help move the reporting agenda forward. Thank you all!