Below are the winners and highly commended organisations of our 2021 Building Public Trust dinner and workshops announced in October and November.
Read comments from the independent judging panel below to see how these organisations differentiated themselves.
When we last presented this award in 2019, trust and confidence in the UK’s charities sector were at an all-time low, following a number of scandals over issues such as alleged misbehaviour and executive pay. What a difference two years make: trust and confidence in charities have now rebounded, fuelled by their pivotal role in helping society respond to the pandemic, and consolidated by clear, honest, engaging reporting of the type produced by this year’s shortlist. The judges praised how clearly and openly all three nominees described their actions to balance income constrained by COVID-19 with higher need for help, with
Age UK singled out for its innovative question-and-answer format and compelling case studies on how it had supported its beneficiaries: a judge commented:
“Given the situation at the time, Age UK’s reporting got the tone spot-on.”
Shown here (left to right): Samira Ahmed, Julian Blackshaw, Vicki Thornton, Helen Stephenson, CBE
As countries worldwide evolve their climate-specific reporting requirements and clarify their Net Zero commitments in the run-up to COP26, the UK has moved to the forefront of mandatory climate disclosures, aligning itself with the standards set out by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. These standards provided the basis of the assessment criteria for this award, and the judges were unanimous in praising the reporting by all three shortlisted nominees, highlighting in particular their strong focus on governance and Board responsibility for climate risks, and their compelling use of scenarios to communicate potential business impacts. Aviva was set apart by its ground-breaking use of external assurance and transparent reporting on the link between climate impacts and executive remuneration. A panellist commented:
“Of the three companies, Aviva’s disclosures are by far the most detailed in this regard.”
Shown here (left to right): Samira Ahmed, Jason Windsor, Emma Howard Boyd CBE
As the 2018 UK Corporate Governance Code makes clear, best practice for companies is to report not only on their corporate governance policies, processes and procedures, but also – more especially – on how governance has been “applied” in Board decision-making during the year, and what the outcomes have been for the business and its stakeholders. Despite this being required for all FTSE 350 companies, the judges noted that too much corporate governance reporting was still largely boilerplate in nature, and that the three shortlisted companies were among a handful leading the way in telling a clear and coherent governance story. They felt that SSE was set apart by elements including its compelling case studies and strong narrative on the intersection between corporate governance and sustainability, with one panellist commenting:
“The section on employee and stakeholder engagement is fantastic.”
Through impacts such as lockdowns, social distancing and increased home-working, the pandemic served to accelerate the shift to digital by organisations in virtually every industry – and thereby opened up more pathways for cybercriminals seeking to attack their systems.
With ransomware attacks up by an estimated 93% in the first half of 2021, it’s becoming ever more vital that companies explain their security posture clearly and accessibly to the public. While the judging panel agreed that our shortlisted companies had all achieved this, they felt Vodafone had the edge through its dynamic tone, honest disclosures on three security incidents during the year, and clear, easily-navigable layout. A panellist commented:
“It’s aesthetically pleasing, which matters when you’re digesting a lot of information.”
Shown here (left to right): Samira Ahmed, Emma Smith, Monica Chadha
Corporate purpose – encapsulating why a company actually exists, and what it contributes to society – has been moving steadily to the heart of good corporate reporting for many years, and the pandemic has accentuated and accelerated this shift. In the judges’ view, that all three of the companies shortlisted for this award exemplified the highest-quality reporting, including clearly articulating their purpose at the start, and then integrating it into high-quality disclosures on strategy, sustainability, tax, remuneration and governance. In a very tight decision, Unilever got the nod for its deep embedding of corporate purpose throughout its reporting, and the clear and explicit linkage between its tax principles, contribution and sustainability impacts; a judge asked:
“Why doesn’t everybody do that?”
Shown here (left to right): Samira Ahmed, Rahul vas Bhat, Jonny McCaig, Charles Tilley OBE
International companies that invest in the UK account for a significant and growing share of the country’s economic activity and jobs – underlining why it’s so important that these inward investors provide regular, detailed and transparent reporting, a need strengthened still further by the pandemic. The judges agreed that the shortlisted companies had all produced consistently strong disclosures, distinguishing clearly between UK and international impacts, and telling a clear and coherent story across the key aspects of their economic, social, environmental and tax effects on the UK.
Sky was set apart by the authenticity and openness of its reporting, with one panellist commenting:
“This creative organisation has produced a creative report, setting out how it helps to deliver a positive social impact through its core business.”
Shown here (left to right): Samira Ahmed, Fiona Ball, Susan Caldwell
In the past year, private businesses have had to work especially hard to balance the needs of their workforce, their business and their stakeholders – a challenge that meant many were unable to focus as much on their narrative reporting as in previous years. Yet the judges were hugely impressed with the quality, honesty and accessibility of all of the shortlisted reports, with one panellist describing them as “a delight to read and extremely informative…blazing a trail for other private businesses to follow, which I hope they do.” Czarnikow attracted special praise for its clear statement of purpose that was placed at the start of its annual report, then interwoven throughout the narrative. A panellist commented:
“I came fresh to Czarnikow, and the statement of purpose helped hugely in understanding their business.”
Shown here (left to right): Samira Ahmed, Julian Randles, Iain Wright
The UK public sector encompasses a vast range of widely differing organisations, all sharing a common accountability for using taxpayers’ money appropriately and providing high-quality services to citizens – as well as for reporting openly and accessibly on how they’ve done this. The past year has clearly been extremely challenging for all government organisations, and the shortlist for this year’s award reflected both the diversity of the public sector as a whole and the need for them to respond quickly and effectively to the pandemic. The judges felt all three reports demonstrated the continued steady improvement in the best public sector reporting, especially in terms of clarity of language, strong use of graphics and improved sustainability disclosures – with the DWP excelling on all counts. A judge said:
“The DWP’s report is a very enjoyable read and highly visually engaging.”
Shown here: Peter Schofield
Executive remuneration has always been one of the most heavily-scrutinised aspects of corporate reporting – and in the past year the focus has intensified still further, in light of the impacts of COVID-19 and criticisms made in the Financial Reporting Council’s review of corporate governance reporting. Against this background, the judging panel felt that the companies shortlisted for this award had all made a clear and credible effort to report openly and transparently on their executive remuneration, including setting it in the context of pay across the business. In deciding to give Severn Trent the award, the judges said its disclosures had
“gone beyond the effects of COVID-19 on the workforce to address customers and wider society, as well as the impacts of share price moments on directors’ shareholdings, something that very few companies do.”
The pandemic and growing scrutiny on ESG and, more specifically, climate change, has increased the pressure on companies and Boards to demonstrate how they’re taking long-term considerations, stakeholders’ interests and their impacts on society into account both in the formulation of their strategy and their everyday decisions on how to execute it. However, as the judges noted, companies’ efforts to balance all these goals can have the unintended effect of making their reporting more complex – meaning a clear purpose and strong strategic backbone of the type provided by the shortlisted companies is more important than ever. In an extremely tight vote, the decision went to Derwent London, which the panel felt was set apart by the reports clear strategic backbone, its very strong integration of sustainability throughout its reporting on strategy, it’s recognition of the importance of stakeholders, and willingness to experiment - evidenced by being
“one of very few companies to publish a public interest statement.”
Companies are facing ongoing evolution in reporting requirements around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, with the standards set by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) providing the bedrock. As companies’ sustainability reporting continues to mature, a handful of organisations have established themselves as leaders, with all three of this year’s shortlist having been nominees and/or winners of this award in the past. While the judges said all three had told a clear and compelling story about how sustainability is at the heart of their business, they felt Unilever was set apart by elements such as its clear disclosures on how it identifies material sustainability issues and how board decisions affected different stakeholders, along with its comprehensive ‘Unilever Compass’ strategy which places sustainability at its heart. A panellist said:
“It feels like Unilever is acknowledging its responsibility to keep not just leading in this area, but also informing and sharing with others.”
Amid upward pressure on tax rates and with investors becoming more focused on ESG metrics including companies’ tax contributions, tax transparency is rising ever higher up the reporting agenda. Companies increasingly see transparent reporting on tax as a way of demonstrating their contribution to society and building trust with stakeholders. The judges felt that the nominees for both of this year’s tax awards had presented their tax affairs in an impressively clear and open way, with BP praised for
"its informative narrative on the tax treatment of the natural resources sector."
and Lloyds for its
"very accessible report, with a clear ‘waterfall chart’ on tax paid and strong coverage of tax risks."
As PwC’s New world. New skills. campaign underlines, reskilling the workforce is a major challenge in societies worldwide – and the new Upskilling Reporting award reflects this, by recognising the organisations that are leading the way in articulating why and how they are upskilling their people and communities. As the judges noted, the three nominees were very diverse, representing a social enterprise, a FTSE100 company and a Zurich-based multinational, but had all pulled clear of the pack with very clear and accessible reporting that explicitly linked their upskilling efforts to wider societal equality and economic benefits for the UK. Social enterprise Money A+E won the nod from the judging panel for its powerful case studies, strong use of charts and detailed reporting on impacts. A judge commented:
“Money A+E’s overall aim is to improve people’s confidence – and it’s great to see that happening.”