The annual reporting landscape is constantly evolving. MESSAGE – an international communication agency with offices in Milan and Warsaw – has given itself the mission to track down the most important trends in Europe. For the third time the experts analysed content structures and presentation formats of more than 1,000 annual reports. The research covers the top 800 listed companies in Europe. We talked with Dario Mezzaqui, one of the founders of MESSAGE, about the major trends in 2016.
More and more companies feel a growing need for a stronger annual reporting focus on social and environmental matters.
Mezzaqui: That is a clear long-term development, yes. During the last years companies published Corporate Social Responsibility Reports, Governance Reports and Environmental Reports as complementary to the Financial Report. That is changing. One of the key trends we discovered in our study is the return of the production of just one report that integrates social and environmental criterias with economic and financial performance. Companies making this choice have increased by 27% compared to 2015.
Why is that?
Mezzaqui: “One long-term vision, one report” could be a good motto behind this choice. Interestingly this push comes from civil society well before governmental or supranational EU institution directives. In this respect, many companies were faster than political and legislative bodies in conceiving their own organizations as social movements constantly interacting with citizens, communities, employees and partners.
Isn’t the consequence of just one report a more and more complex publication?
Mezzaqui: Absolutely. Especially when the reports simultaneously comply with national and international regulations and follow multiple non-financial reporting frameworks and principles. It is due to this complexity that our research confirmed the second major trend: An ever-increasing number of companies are adopting clearer and more concise forms of performance presentations such as Annual Reviews. These summaries take the form of captivating scrolling web pages concentrating on company purpose, crucial events, strategic assets and vision.
The interactive PDFs are declining?
Mezzaqui: Indeed. Interactive PDFs surely are more effective than the simple PDF but are still too related to the sequential reading of printed documents.
Did you discover a shift in the digital reporting strategies?
Mezzaqui: Our research of the three year period confirms that the presentation of annual performance in HTML has become an acquired practice for approximately 40% of the undertakings. This is corresponding to a radical transformation in the ways in which new generations access and absorb information. Concise, to-the-point and visual are the main features of a brand new digital language more suitable to establish relationships based on transparency, trust and authenticity with stakeholders. In terms of communication, videos, infographics and animations seem to attract the audience a lot more. So in general the implementation of digital Annual Report projects is alive and kicking.
Interview: Eva Schneeweiß