Reporting award winners - November 2018

Announced on 29 November 2018, the winners and highly commended organisations of the 2018 Building Public Trust Awards are showcased below covering Reporting on Corporate Governance, Executive Remuneration, Financial Services, Purpose and Impact, Strategic reporting, Tax, and Workforce Fairness.

Read comments from the independent judging panel to see how these organisations differentiated themselves.

 

Building Public Trust Award for Corporate Governance Reporting in the FTSE 350

Winner: SSE

SSE wins the award with clear, visually attractive reporting that maintains a strong focus on the board’s activities and key issues during the year. The judges were impressed with the quality and scope of the chairman’s introduction, and its clear linkage to hot topics covered later in the report. They also noted the detailed descriptions of the board’s role in setting the culture, engaging with stakeholders and managing the demerger of SSE’s GB retail business, and of the progress and future plans springing from the board evaluation. A judge commented: “It’s very good on diversity, which is integrated throughout the report and is clearly something SSE takes seriously.” Another summed up: “There’s consistent linkage to the strategy throughout. This is reporting that’s clear, well-written and well-presented.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, David Buchanan, Laura Hinton 

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Marks and Spencer Group

Last year’s winner is highly commended for detailed, insightful governance reporting enlivened by engaging case studies on the company’s engagement with key stakeholders. “I like this report, because it’s honest from the chairman’s statement onwards about the challenges M&S faces,” commented a judge. The company’s disclosures provide a good level of insight into the work done by the board, covering its main activities in a succinct and well-organised way, and the audit committee report is technically strong yet easy to navigate. The judges also liked the board diversity reporting, which they felt went into an unusual level of detail on progress against the policy objectives. A panel member said: “There’s a holistic feel to this reporting. It ticks all the boxes.” 

Pearson

Pearson appears on the shortlist for this award for the first time, reflecting ongoing improvements in its corporate governance reporting over the past few years. Its disclosures on the board evaluation process were praised by the judges, and provide a wealth of detailed but easily understandable information on progress made against the previous year’s evaluation, and the plans in place to address findings from the latest evaluation. A panellist commented: “I like the way the board effectiveness review links to the succession planning.” The panel also singled out Pearson’s viability statement as being both comprehensive and readable – “It’s very clear, and links directly to the strategy and key risks,” commented a judge.

 

Building Public Trust Award for Executive Remuneration Reporting in the FTSE 350

Winner: Marshalls

First-time nominee Marshalls has produced a concise and accessible remuneration report, set apart most clearly by its comprehensive disclosures on the broader workforce context. Areas covered include the cascade of incentives across the organisation, together with detailed gender pay gap information and diversity initiatives. “The reporting is very strong on employee engagement and pay ratios,” commented a judge. Panel members also commented positively on the table summarising the company’s remuneration policy and implementation for 2017 and 2018, and the succinct disclosures on how share price appreciation has impacted the single figure and directors’ shareholdings. A judge summed up: “For a company of its size, Marshalls’ remuneration reporting is simply fantastic.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Janet Ashdown, Sir Mark Boleat

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Severn Trent

Clear and open remuneration reporting that addresses the issue of fairness up-front in the chairman’s statement, and goes on to provide a detailed summary of the rationale for proposed changes to the remuneration policy. The judges were especially impressed by the narrative on how shareholders’ views were canvassed and taken into account during the decision-making on the policy changes. Panel members also praised the strong linkage that Severn Trent creates between strategy and remuneration, and the inclusion of assumed share price growth in its remuneration policy scenarios. One judge added: “In the context of the workforce, the company raises the issue of social mobility, which I think is something new in remuneration reporting.”

 

Workspace Group

Workspace is highly commended for an honest and engaging remuneration report, which is enlivened by a schematic showing at a glance how the company’s incentive performance metrics align with its corporate strategy. The judges praised the open discussion of the link between executive pay and that of staff, and the inclusion of the ratio of the CEO single figure against average worker pay over the previous nine-year period. “The cascade of pay structures is really useful,” commented a panel member. Another added: “I like how the graphs include an explanation of how people should read them. That’s really helpful for the everyday reader.”

 

Building Public Trust Award for Reporting in the Financial Services in the FTSE 350

Winner: HSBC Holdings

HSBC wins the inaugural award for financial services reporting with a well-structured and highly readable report that focuses on trust, customers and culture from the start. The company tells a clear story about how it engages with key stakeholders including staff and communities, and what steps it takes to address their issues. “What HSBC does especially well is summarise the key drivers of its business at the beginning of the journey through its annual report,” commented a judge. Another added: “Some of the reporting is fantastic, such as the focus on customer feedback.” The judges were also impressed by HSBC’s remuneration report and early adoption of the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). A panellist summed up: “It’s clear that HSBC has made a concerted effort to improve its reporting, and should be applauded.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Tony Bloomfield, Jennifer Livingstone, Richard Howitt  

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Lancashire Holdings

A clear, honest and authentic account of Lancashire Holdings’ financial year. The reporting is logically-organised and has a strong focus on the company’s people as being responsible for its achievements. The judges liked Lancashire’s use of senior management to respond to important questions, and its description of why responsible corporate behaviour across the world is central to its business model. A member of the judging panel commented: “Most of the general public probably don’t think about reinsurance very much – but Lancashire has done a very good job of explaining clearly what it does and why there are three parts to its business.” Another added: “Good, honest reporting. I enjoyed reading it, because I learned a lot.”

Virgin Money Group

Virgin Money’s reporting – which is both highly readable and easily accessible – stresses purpose and culture up front in the chair’s statement, and goes on to showcase the importance of people throughout. It also focuses strongly on non-financial metrics, with data points around its customer net promoter scores and contribution to society included in the opening highlights. The judges commented positively on elements such as the detailed breakdown of Virgin Money’s involvement with communities, and the easily-understandable diagram of its business model. “This is very clear customer-facing reporting,” commented a judge. “It describes the importance of stakeholders, what happened over the year, and the priorities for next year – all very helpful in generating trust.”

 

Building Public Trust Award for Purpose and Impact Reporting in the FTSE 350 and Public Interest Entities

Winner: AstraZeneca

First-time nominee AstraZeneca wins the award with lively, engaging reporting built around a strong and explicit purpose that resonates through the business’s disclosures and informs its sustainability strategy. The judges noted the company’s detailed discussion of the wider impacts of its value chain, which feeds into the materiality matrix and future targets, and the clear quantification of social and economic impacts in its Social Return on Investment Report. “The reporting’s very easy to read and accessible,” commented a judge. Others highlighted the frank and open disclosures on the company’s approach to drug pricing in different countries, and on progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A panellist summed up: “What comes across is that the purpose is integrated into what inspires the workforce to come in to work every day.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Martin Blaxall, Camilla Marcus-Dew 

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Pearson

Pearson clearly articulates its mission and its 2020 Sustainability Plan, which is well integrated into the core business model.  Furthermore their reporting is attractively presented and easily-navigable. Stakeholder engagement activities and the materiality assessment are described in detail, with clear linkage between each issue and the relevant stakeholders. The judges were particularly impressed by the eight ‘efficacy research reports’ that Pearson has developed to quantify the social impact of its educational products, and by its qualitative reporting across social, economic and environmental impacts. “The company’s climate change reporting is remarkable,” said a panellist.  Another added: “I love the section on targets, showing how they performed against targets for 2017 and setting out those for next year.”

SSE

SSE’s drive towards a more sustainable business model shines through in its reporting on purpose, vision, strategy, and business operations. The company’s annual and sustainability reports both include disclosures on its positive and negative environmental, social and economic impacts, underlining its commitment to open and integrated reporting. The judges particularly liked the way SSE incorporated the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its reporting, and its pioneering scenario analysis on the Paris Agreement. “The scenario planning is excellent. Everybody should be doing it,” said a panellist. Another commented: “The big business model issue for SSE is the energy transition – and that comes across clearly in its reporting.”

 

Building Public Trust Award for Strategic Reporting in the FTSE 350

Winner: Fresnillo

Winner in 2016, Fresnillo clinches the award again with a comprehensive and insightful strategic report. The reporting hits the ground running with the company’s strategic priorities, which are integrated throughout, and there’s strong coverage of market trends and principal risks, together with good use of infographics to report performance. The judges particularly liked the materiality assessment – described as “excellent” by one panellist – which takes stakeholders’ interests into account. They also praised the detailed reporting on reserves down to the level of the individual mine, and the viability statement, which considers a number of possible scenarios. A judge explained: “The viability statement is fantastic, and the mine-by-mine disclosures reflect the fact that the business has different challenges in each one. The granularity is interesting.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Dame Judith Macgregor, Gabriela Mayor, Laura Hinton

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

G4S

Highly integrated strategic reporting that tackles the company’s stakeholder issues up front and discusses their impact on its strategy. The strategic priorities are clearly explained and linked to relevant KPIs, risks and values, as well as being brought to life through compelling case studies. Issues are determined openly through the materiality assessment in the governance report, and focus areas for the year ahead are set out clearly, both financial and non-financial. “The KPIs are very good, as is the explanation of its alternative performance measures and stakeholder engagement.” commented a member of the judging panel.

Great Portland Estates

Great Portland Estates is highly commended for clear and consistent strategic reporting grounded in the company’s response to the property cycle. A well-structured and informative market commentary provides context on opportunities, covering both the micro level in terms of individual areas of London, and also the wider macro picture. The judges liked the strong emphasis on the resources and relationships that underpin the business model. “The reporting is very good on capital allocation and how it ties to the market,” said a panellist. “Simple, disciplined and easy to read.” Another summed up: “This is an excellent report, with a really good analysis of the property market and the company’s relationships within it.”

 

Building Public Trust Award for Tax Reporting in the FTSE 350

Winner: Pearson

Pearson wins the tax reporting award for the first time, coinciding with the first publication of its stand-alone tax report. The judges praised the comprehensive yet concise nature of the company’s tax reporting, including clear disclosures on the provisions for tax uncertainties complete with amounts, going beyond the legal requirements. They were also impressed by Pearson’s country-by-country tax reporting, supplemented with explanations of why tax was paid in each jurisdiction. “The scene-setting at the start of the report is very good, with a frank Q&A section tackling issues like use of tax havens, and a clear description of tax principles,” said a panellist. Another commented positively on the forward-looking narrative on how future developments in tax might affect the business.

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Jim Marshall, Richard Howitt

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Lloyds Banking Group

Lloyds Banking Group published a separate tax report for the first time, linking tax explicitly to its wider business purpose. The tax report presents a detailed breakdown of Lloyds Banking Group’s deferred tax assets and liabilities, simplified to make it accessible to non-tax experts. Members of the judging panel liked the clear graphical comparison between where Lloyds’ profits arise and where it pays tax, and the explicit linkage between its tax reporting and risk management framework. “There’s consistency throughout the reporting, and very good use of graphics to explain the numbers,” commented a panellist.

Prudential

Prudential’s tax reporting is clear, concise and well-structured – an especially impressive achievement in the insurance industry, where tax is so complex. In its standalone tax report, the company sets the tone of openness and transparency early on with a refreshingly easy-to-read and understandable waterfall chart, reconciling the current tax charge to tax paid. The annual report includes a very detailed effective tax rate reconciliation in tabular form, broken down into recurring and non-recurring items and further split by geography. “The reporting on tax risks, the company’s appetite for them and how they’re managed goes into a level of detail you don’t see very often,” said a judge. A fellow judge added: “They’ve done a good job of explaining complex insurance tax.” 

 

Building Public Trust Award for Workforce Fairness Reporting in the FTSE 350

Winner: Lloyds Banking Group

Lloyds’ reporting shows clearly that the workforce is a critical part of its responsible business strategy, and puts colleague inclusion, wellbeing, learning and human rights at the forefront. They recognise and report on the positive impact that creating a responsible, inclusive and diverse culture has on the customer experience. It was one of the few companies to disclose ethnicity and gender reporting by grade, as well as disability ratios and the year-on-year change in them. As one judge commented: “The reporting on diversity and training is remarkable and impressive.”  The report also highlights the company’s commitment to help local communities become more cohesive by providing vital support for disadvantaged individuals in Britain today. This was showcased for example by its support of the charity Mental Health UK, with record breaking fundraising and helping to develop and deliver mental health awareness training for employees and the wider community. As another judge added: “The common theme throughout the reporting of ‘helping Britain prosper’ feels very genuine.”

Shown here (left to right): Mary Nightingale, Saibh Young, Sir Mark Boleat

Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

Royal Mail Group

Honest, open and highly engaging reporting that stresses the importance of Royal Mail’s people to its business, while recognising up-front the challenges around union negotiations. Throughout the report, for example, they openly discuss the progress made with the Communication Workers Union. As one judge commented, “The context of having a highly unionised workforce can’t be ignored, and Royal Mail addresses the issues well”. Royal Mail also acknowledges how employee engagement is essential to the customer-focused culture they are building, and explains how its employee engagement across the past three years has linked to its overall performance. This is backed up by disclosure of employee engagement KPIs, surveys results and turnover figures. Diversity, equality and mental health initiatives are also covered in detail, as are training and development investments in areas ranging from technology to ethics. A panellist summed up: “It’s a very strong report because it’s honest, and about where they are as a company.”

SSE

SSE is highly commended for attractive, easily-navigable reporting that stresses fairness, wellbeing and health for employees. The analysis of the gender pay gap is open and detailed, with a good description of initiatives in place to attract more women to SSE. The judges liked the way the company linked workforce fairness with staff engagement and productivity, and with wider sustainability goals. “The references to the UN Global Compact and Sustainable Development Goals are good, as is the inclusion of diversity as a board-level focus,” commented a judge. The panel also praised the frank discussion of automation and its potential impacts on the workforce.

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