The "Corporate Reporting Monitor" is the first recurring international study on corporate reporting. It was first conducted in 2019 initiated by and in cooperation with the Center for Corporate Reporting (Zurich, Switzerland). The study is designed as a compass for strategic developments, trends and as a benchmark. Based on a survey of project managers, the study opens the "black box" of corporate reporting and analyses strategies, resource allocation, decision-making processes and the organizational framework of reporting.
Some insights of the study are summarized below.
2019 // Corporate Reporting Monitor
The Corporate Reporting Monitor 2019 is based on a survey of companies in the Swiss Market Index, German Stock Index, Mid-Cap-DAX, Small-Cap-DAX und Austrian Traded Index (SMI, DAX, MDAX, SDAX, ATX) (30% response rate). The survey is structured according to the strategic management cycle: It covers questions of planning, organization, management, resource allocation and evaluation. In doing so, the Corporate Reporting Monitor deliberately applies a strategic perspective to the annual report - an instrument that is still predominantly seen as a regulatory necessity rather than an opportunity for strategic communication.
Fig. 1 Objectives of the reporting. Question: In your opinion, how important are the following goals for your annual report? (N = 48).
With regard to the "planning" of reporting, the study surveyed the primary reporting objectives of listed companies (see Fig. 1). It is not surprising that compliance with regulatory requirements is considered the most important goal by those responsible for reporting. At the bottom of the list of priorities are classic public relations objectives such as maintaining the corporate image, positioning the company and increasing awareness. The survey also asked the respondents to assess the relevance of these goals in three years. It turned out that increasing confidence in sustainability is seen as the topic that will gain the most importance. It is also expected that regulatory requirements will become even more important in the future - some of them with a focus on sustainability reporting.
Fig.2 Annual report as part of the strategy. Question: To what extent is the annual report part of your company's strategic communications planning? (N = 44).
As part of the organization, the Corporate Reporting Monitor dealt not only with formats but also with the synergies between the reporting process and corporate communications and the role of the annual report as a strategic communications instrument. The results show that only 34% of the companies have formally integrated the annual report into their communication strategy, while for 36% of the companies the annual report is largely oriented towards the communication strategy.
Fig.3 Overall responsibility and contributions of the functions. Question: Which department has overall responsibility / project management for the preparation of the annual report? (N = 55). Question: Expressed as a percentage, how much do the departments mentioned below contribute to the contents of the annual report? This includes texts, figures and illustrations (N = 46). Abbreviations: Corporate Communications (CC), Investor Relations (IR).
With regard to the management phase of "leadership", the study analysed the role of the management and supervisory boards in the reporting process. It also ascertained which corporate functions assume project responsibility for the annual report and which contribute to the report.
As Figure 3 shows, corporate communications or investor relations tend to be in charge of the overall project (39% each). However, at 26%, the finance department actually contributes the largest share of content.
Fig. 4: Future use of external service providers. Question: In your view, to what extent will the involvement of external service providers change over the next three years? (N = 43).
The Corporate Reporting Monitor examined various aspects of resource allocation in the reporting process, such as budgets, team sizes or human resources used throughout the company. With regard to cooperation with external service providers, the study showed that companies often use agencies for translations, design, online implementation, printing and editing (see Fig. 4). However, when asked about the involvement of service providers in three years' time, about one-third of those surveyed said that the number of service providers would decline.
Fig. 5. forms of evaluation of the annual report. Question: How is the annual report evaluated in your company? (N = 44).
Finally, the Corporate Reporting Monitor examined the evaluation of the annual report. Since most companies have not integrated the annual report into their communication strategy, it is not surprising that the report or the reporting process is rarely formally evaluated. The study found that informal feedback is the most commonly used performance metric - from target groups, colleagues or management (see Figure 5).
In addition to the study results, members of the Center for Corporate Reporting (CCR) receive practical recommendations for action and access to individually tailored workshops with experts. An executive summary for Board members and C-level decision-makers is available on request.