The Canal & River Trust’s annual report hits the ground running, making it clear from the start what it does and how it adds value. The performance disclosures are open, readable and comprehensive, and there’s a strong focus on the charity’s vision, funding, challenges, and contribution from volunteers. “This is a relatively new charity that tells a compelling story about how it’s developing and maturing, supported by interesting case studies,” commented one judge. The panel also praised the clear graphical depiction of money collected, costs incurred, and funds available for spending. A member summed up: “This is really excellent reporting. I hadn’t heard of the Trust before – but once I’d read its report I felt I had very good idea of what it’s about and the outcomes it delivers for its beneficiaries.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Sandra Kelly, Claire Dove OBE DL
Well-presented and highly readable reporting founded around the NSPCC’s ‘5 goals for 5 years’, supplemented by easily-accessible risk disclosures using a traffic-light system linked to its risk appetite. The reporting includes compelling case studies to illustrate progress towards the charity’s goals, and a very clear explanation of its remuneration policy and how this supports its mission. The judges were especially impressed by the commentary from the NSPCC’s Young People’s Advisory Board. “The voice of the beneficiaries comes across loud and clear,” said one. “And the traffic-light rating in its reporting on risks shows where it’s doing well or not so well.” Another judge praised the forward-looking perspective: “If you’re giving money to a charity like this one, you want to know it’s being used with longer-term objectives in mind.”
Sightsavers sets out clearly how its mission, vision and objectives are aligned though an easily-readable graphical scorecard covering its strategic goals and progress towards them. The charity’s performance figures cover the past four years to enable the reader to see longer-term trends, and the disclosures on risk and challenges are detailed and transparent, supported by a description of steps to address them and an explicit commitment to continuous improvement. “The clearest narrative on the shortlist,” commented a judge. Another added: “You can see that this is a charity that’s well-managed and well-organised. In my view, they’ve done better than many corporates in describing their purpose and how they’re progressing towards it.”
Winner in 2016, Marks and Spencer returns to clinch the 2018 award with open and honest reporting that tackles up-front the company’s challenges and their actions taken in response. The judges were especially impressed by the “Facing facts” section acknowledging the issues affecting its recent performance, and the steps taken to refresh and deliver the Plan A 2025 programme. “There’s a clear, consistent narrative that really flows between the Annual Report and Sustainability Report,” said a judge. “It reads as though it was all written by the same person – and the integral nature of the strategy threads through all the documents.” Other judges commented positively on M&S’s reporting on its executive remuneration, gender pay gap and retail shareholder panel. One judge summed up: “This is very readable reporting that presents the unvarnished truth.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Amanda Mellor, Angela Knight CBE
Clear and comprehensive reporting, characterised by clear strategic linkage throughout the Annual Report and a strong focus on societal impacts. Aspects of the reporting praised by the judges included the ‘efficacy reports’ through which Person quantifies its impacts for educators and learners, and the ‘materiality matrix’ mapping stakeholders’ concerns to their level of impact on the business. The corporate governance reporting on the board evaluation and issues considered by the Audit Committee was also consistently strong and readable, as was the section in tax transparency. “I wish more companies were as open as this about where they pay their tax,” commented a judge. Another added: “Overall, this is very readable and accessible reporting.”
SSE is highly commended for the second year running, for reporting that’s underpinned by a clear focus on stakeholders and set apart by strong disclosures on people and sustainability. The judges were especially impressed by the disclosures on how stakeholders’ views were considered in the decision to demerge the company’s UK Energy Services business. The panel also commented positively on the company’s social and environmental reporting, including its ‘Post-Paris’ resilience scenarios and references to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “The SDGs should be in everybody’s reporting, but SSE is one of few companies making use of them,” commented one judge. Another said: “As an energy company, SSE has one of the hardest wickets to play on, but it performs really well. A first-class report.”
Tata-owned JLR wins the inaugural award for reporting in overseas investment, with a clear, open and engaging set of disclosures across the key areas gender pay, modern slavery and tax strategy. The company’s gender pay reporting is detailed and externally-assured, and goes beyond the mandatory requirements. On modern slavery, the company sets out its dedicated human rights policy, describes its engagement with high-risk suppliers and actions taken as a result. And on tax, JLR defines six clear principles underpinning its global policy. “JLR’s gender pay reporting really stands out,” commented a judge. “Its commitment to improving the situation in a traditionally male-dominated industry shines through.” Another praised the “remarkable detail” of JLR’s environmental reporting. One panellist summed up: “The company’s caring and concerned approach flows through the reporting.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Ken Gregor, Charles Tilley OBE, Sir Stephen O'Brien CBE
Clear and attractively-presented reporting that is brought to life by excellent use of case studies and benefits from especially strong reporting on tax. The concise reporting on gender pay has a compelling overall narrative and showcases strong examples of advancing diversity across the business, while the company’s approach to modern slavery is based on the internationally-recognised Global Slavery Index. The tax reporting includes a detailed classification of tax risks and reference to HMRC’s code of practice on taxation for banks. “The company’s coverage of risks like money laundering is clear and direct” commented a judge. Another added: “The tax reporting is especially good, with references to the reputational implication and a strong focus on the commercial aspects.”
Nominated for the first time, Nationwide wins this year’s award with an engaging, well-signposted and much-improved annual report that one member of the judging panel described as “exemplary”. Aiming primarily at members but retaining a focus on wider stakeholders, Nationwide uses easy-to-follow colour-coding to link each segment of its five-point strategy to all elements of its reporting, which is enlivened throughout with case studies and snapshots of individual members. “It presents so many strong statistics – employee engagement, payroll giving & volunteering, diversity, and customer satisfaction are all at impressive levels,” commented a judge. Another summed up: “I can only say positive things about Nationwide’s reporting. It’s clear, open and explains the benefits of mutuality. And what it says is borne out by its customer experience.”
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Mark Rennison, Sir Stephen O'Brien CBE
Shortlisted in each of the past four years and winner in 2015, John Lewis is highly commended once again for inclusive, accessible and jargon-free reporting that provides excellent insights into the impacts of the external environment on its business. The company’s recent challenges are tackled up front in the Chairman’s statement, and the ten-year strategy – entitled “It’s your business 2028” – is integrated throughout using colour-coding. The judges liked the use of plain language, such as calling the corporate governance section “How we share power”. One commented: “John Lewis has a tough story to tell, and doesn’t shy away from it.” Another agreed: “The company does a very good job of explaining things to its partners, and hopefully of building trust with the public as a result.”
As the only family-owned business on the shortlist, Marshall distinguishes itself with an engaging and highly readable annual report that shows the way forward for many of its peers. Through a clear narrative and engaging writing style, the reporting provides deep insights into its strategy across the company’s three divisions, and is open about the actions taken to address the previous year’s loss. The coverage of risks – including cyber – and corporate governance is very detailed, going well beyond any regulatory requirements. “This reporting doesn’t have the marketing ‘slickness’ of the other nominees, but it’s truly admirable,” commented a judge. Another added: “Marshall deserves a special commendation of its own. As a family business, it’s stepped up and had a real go.”
Highly commended last year, the Ministry of Justice steps up to joint winner this time with a much-improved and highly readable annual report that is frank and open about the challenges it faces. “The MoJ has made a creditable attempt to improve its reporting – and hopefully its efforts will influence other public sector bodies,” said a member of the judging panel. “Its reporting is accessible and concise, and deals transparently with some very tricky issues, such as attacks in prisons.” Other judges noted that MoJ’s transparency in its reporting extended to internal challenges such as diversity, and that the financial performance section had made particularly strong progress, with the creation of clearer linkage between spending and departmental priorities.
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Mike Driver, Sir Amyas Morse KCB
The Crown Estate produced a highly informative annual report that is very explicit on how it measures its own success. The judges commented positively on the commitment to “conscious commercialism” at the front and the strong use of KPIs to measure performance against targets. They also liked the detailed coverage of external market conditions and their impacts on the business. “In pure reporting terms, it stands out,” commented a judge. “It has good KPIs and addresses all the key areas”.
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Anne Thomas, Sir Amyas Morse KCB
Highways England is highly commended for the third year running, for a well-structured and accessible annual report that sets out its three strategic priorities up front and integrates them throughout. There’s a strong focus on outcomes, and the coverage of risks is clear and readable, both in terms of what the main risks are and how they’re managed. KPIs are compared against the past three years to provide a view of ongoing trends. “The way Highways England sets out specific objectives and measures its progress against them is admirable,” commented a judge. “Areas like the opportunity to increase speed limits through roadworks are well-expressed.” Another agreed: “It has clear objectives and KPIs, supported by some insightful reporting and interesting case studies.”
RELX Group – the sole FTSE 100 representative on the shortlist – wins the inaugural award for cyber security reporting with concise, transparent reporting that clearly exhibits a firm understanding of the security threats it faces. “The reporting on cyber risks is very straightforward and comprehensive,” commented a judge. “It explicitly states up front that its databases are a target for attackers.” This transparency and openness is maintained through a detailed descriptions of cyber controls, metrics and governance across the business, and of the contingency plans in place should a major incident occur. In an area of reporting that is clearly still emerging and evolving, the consensus on the judging panel was that RELX is helping to show the way forward for others to follow.
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Hank Udow, Mark Wood CBE, Angela Knight CBE
Derwent London’s reporting leaves the reader in no doubt that it regards cyber security as a major boardroom issue. The report clearly describes the responsibilities and involvement related to cyber security and data protection at all levels of the business, including a cyber awareness programme for board members. It also provides a detailed account of the security controls, together with incident response and business continuity plans. Further aspects that impressed the judges included the comprehensive GDPR initiative and independent external benchmarking of its security. A judge commented: “Unlike with the other two nominees, you might not immediately assume that a property company would make cyber security part of its business-as-usual – but Derwent London has clearly done so.”
Clear and detailed cyber security reporting, characterised by clear engagement from the executive leadership and a distinctive focus on managing and assuring risks related to third-party suppliers. “The chairman appears to take personal responsibility for cyber security, which I applaud,” commented a judge. Another highlighted the company’s frank reporting on the reputational risks that arise in this area. The judges were also impressed by the disclosures on future security projects in the pipeline, demonstrating the company’s proactive stance towards its security threats. “You get the feeling that the approach to cyber is led from the top,” summed up a member of the judging panel. “There’s a sense of command.”
Belu’s passion for the impacts it aims to generate shines through in its narrative reporting, which is supplemented by powerful case studies and high-quality financial disclosures. “This is a social enterprise that’s made fantastic progress,” commented a judge. “What comes through in the writing is its commitment to all the outputs it creates.” These outputs include donating more than £3m to the international charity WaterAid since 2011, helping to transform over 200,000 lives, and becoming the only water brand awarded the BSI’s independent carbon neutrality standard. A panel member noted: “Issues like use of plastics are tackled head on, helping businesses move to more sustainable options.” The consensus was that Belu should win the award this year because of its long track record of making an impact – but the judges stressed that the other nominees are brilliant social enterprises too.
Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Karen Lynch, Camilla Marcus-Dew, Claire Dove OBE DL
Bike for Good is the most geographically-focused of this year’s nominated social enterprises, committed to encourage higher levels of cycling in Glasgow by providing access to high-quality refurbished bikes. Its impacts in the year covered by its annual report included helping more than 25,000 people learn to ride and repair their bicycles, and diverting over 2,800 bikes from entering landfill, saving more than 400 tonnes of CO2 emissions. It communicates these impacts through an annual impacts report, funder reports and other channels. One judge commented: “My heart sings when I see a smaller social enterprise like Bike for Good succeed. Not only is it working with young people, it also has impacts across the whole health and wellbeing agenda.”
CoachBright’s mission is to improve access to Higher Education for pupils from low-income backgrounds and improve social mobility over time. It communicates its impacts through an annual report and programme reviews sent to each school it works with. In 2017/18, CoachBright worked with over 700 pupils across five countries, and 94% of the year 13 pupils it coached last year went on to university – including 70% to a top-third ranked university. “I loved the annual report,” commented a judge. “The results are fantastic – which is great for social mobility – and it seems to have quite a simple model that’s incredibly effective. It also does a good job of explaining it.” Another judge added that they would would love to see CoachBright’s approach extended to other routes to learning, such as Modern Apprenticeships.