TUESDAY 5 DEC 2023 10:47 AM


William Morgan-Harrold, director of consultancy at Jones and Palmer, describes how the role of corporate reporting has expanded far beyond just financial summaries.

Once upon a time in the ever-evolving landscape of corporations, the mundane practice of annual reporting embarked on a profound journey of transformation. It wasn’t merely about abiding by regulatory frameworks such as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or guidelines on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting. No, this was a story about businesses recognising the need to transcend the boundaries of templates and regulations, seeking to weave narratives that resonated with stakeholders on a deeper level.

The evolution of corporate reporting wasn’t just about figures and compliance anymore. It mirrored a societal shift – a call for transparency and accountability that companies began to answer. They delved into the art of crafting narratives that blended compliance with creativity, forging reports that weren’t just informative but memorable. The once rigid compartments of ESG started to stretch, encompassing broader dimensions of a company’s operations, values, and vision. No longer about abandoning regulations; it was about enhancing them with a touch of personalisation and meaning.

In this transformative journey, integrated thinking emerged as a guiding light. It went beyond the checkboxes of ESG, entwining strategic narratives and initiatives into a company's very essence – its purpose, mission and culture. This approach wasn’t just about stating what they did; it was about conveying the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind their actions. Integrated thinking became a potent tool, nurturing transparency and accountability, while aligning decisions with broader objectives, fostering trust among stakeholders.

Amidst this labyrinth, some companies embraced a special ritual known as the ‘materiality exercise’. It involved understanding the pivotal needs and concerns of key stakeholders, shaping reporting strategies and practices accordingly. Armed with these insights, they crafted comprehensive reports, intertwining a natural narrative that went beyond mere compliance checkboxes. These reports weren’t just documents; they were stories, engaging, educating and inspiring stakeholders.

At the heart of this transformation lay the power of storytelling. These meaningful reports weren’t just a compilation of data; they were a company’s journey – a tale of challenges, triumphs, and unwavering commitment to a sustainable future. By embracing change and engaging stakeholders with creativity and purpose, companies navigated the corporate reporting landscape with finesse. Crafting memorable reports became a celebration of the meaningful stories that defined successful companies, calling for authentic engagement and fulfilling regulatory obligations, while contributing to a brighter, sustainable future for all.

In this dynamic corporate world, integrated thinking and storytelling weren’t just choices, they were necessities. They drove authentic action and fostered a deeper understanding of value creation processes for businesses and stakeholders alike. By advocating a shift from template-driven reporting to narratives rooted in integrated thinking, companies created reports that resonated deeply, enhancing transparency and trust. It wasn’t just about compliance anymore, it was about genuine communication and meaningful engagement with stakeholders, paving the way for a more responsible and brighter business world.