Greater expectations – the age of the stakeholder has arrived

FTSE 350 corporate reporting trends in 2018

The backdrop to this year’s reporting season has been one of uncertainty and this has clearly had an effect on the trends we’ve witnessed. While the emphasis on stakeholders and overall direction was clear, the detail was not yet in place, and indeed most of the changes were not going to be mandatory even for the next reporting season. All of which left companies with a bit of a conundrum for the main 2017-18 reporting season – how far was it right to go to anticipate 2019-20? And how far would others go?

 

Why the Annual Report?

Technological advances are already improving the quantity and quality of information available to stakeholders, and it’s inevitable that they’ll disrupt and transform not just what is reported but the entire reporting system – including the annual report. But our view is that in today’s world, the annual report, and more importantly the information it presents, plays an important role as part of the suite of information that companies produce. This year we decided to test that view on a number of leading commentators, drawn from companies, investors and regulators – and you can view their comments on both the annual report, and other reporting topics throughout this year’s report.

Top tips to improve corporate reporting

Below you’ll find the key areas of insight we’ve identified as current and emerging FTSE 350 reporting practices, along with top tips to improve the quality of reporting.

Purpose

  • Be explicit about what your purpose is, explain what it means and how this impacts on the company.
  • Set your purpose in the context of what you are trying to achieve and be clear about who that impacts.
  • Ensure that purpose aligns to other elements of reporting, for example business model, remuneration.

The business model

  • Be clear about the role stakeholders play in the business.
  • Explain how they add value and why this is unique to them.
  • Explore outcomes or impacts of the model.

A longer term view

  • Be clear about the timeframe over which strategy is being presented and ensure messaging is consistent with the viability statement.
  • Provide a view of future market trends supported by quantified data.
  • Consider the balance of lead and lag performance indicators.

Strategy

  • Start your report planning by setting out strategy on a page and linking other elements to it. If you can’t find a link then this suggests you’ll have a gap in your disclosure.
  • Put strategy at the heart of reporting.
  • Make use of symbols or numbers to reference strategic priorities through the report and be consistent with the language you use to describe your priorities.

Stakeholders and long-term considerations

There’s undoubtedly been a growing recognition of stakeholders in reports whether in the identification of key stakeholders and acknowledgement of their importance, presentation of business models, or in the statement of a clear purpose. Yet, while there have been a small number of examples of good reporting from companies willing and able to get ahead of what will be required in a couple of years’ time, overall we were left with the feeling that the market in general still has a lot to do.

“In over 15 years of performing such a review I cannot remember one where the governance and reporting agenda has been dominated by just a single topic – stakeholders – almost at the expense of all others. Whilst companies have grappled with a changing reporting landscape, which is only just settling into place, it has been fascinating to see who would be the first to embrace this change. So while this survey reflects on what we saw in the 2017–18 reporting season it does so very much with an eye to the future.”

Mark O’SullivanHead of Corporate Reporting, PwC

Contact us

Mark O'Sullivan
Head of Corporate Reporting, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7804 3459
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