13 companies that took their corporate reporting to the next level in 2013

Looking for inspiration for your corporate reporting this year? Then look no further than these companies for best practice and guidance

The ‘2013 Trends in Corporate Reporting’ report, produced Ideas on Purpose proves that its an interesting time for corporate reporting with numerous emerging trends coming into play – some of them “seemingly contradictory”, according to the report’s author Michelle Marks.

“New media, new rules, diverse solutions, but still the familiar challenge of how best to communicate the vision and value of your organization, in order to make a definite impression on people who matter,” she writes.

So, which of the large Fortune 200 companies were breaking some of the rules in 2013? And how did they break them?

The interactive online report

Online reporting is very much in vogue (although it seems to have plateaued with 56 of the Fortune 200 creating truly interactive sites to accompany, augment or even replace a printed report – the same number as in the previous year).

Check out:

Stanley Black & Decker’s 2012 Year in Review is the first time the company has created a combined report. It's full of high-production quality videos, highlighting emerging market opportunities. Oh, and if you're in the office, you might want to turn the sound off on your computer.

AT&T created a rich annual report website complete with videos and embraced the social experience. This site is completely responsive too, so the format adapts to mobile, tablet or desktop.

Print is evolving

Print is still the most common vehicle for annual reporting. And it has many advantages. “It’s something you give or send to people, and that provides a certain amount of control in how you get your message out,” says Michelle.

And the 10-K wrap remains a relatively popular approach in print, with the summary report or ‘year in review’ chosen by many companies who otherwise may not communicate widely about broad corporate strategies in a holistic way beyond their corporate website.

Check out:

Kellogg’s suite of designed materials including a printed annual report, with a designed 10-K, a fact card, a website, and analyst meeting banners and graphics.

Coca-Cola’s annual review in print and rich online version with an interactive 10-K

Nielsen’s summary report ‘year in review’ and designed proxy statement that creates a cohesive document suite.

Illinois Tool Works’s suite of 2012 reports all designed together to create a cohesive presentation.

Responsibility reporting

Whether framed as sustainability, CSR, corporate citizenship or ESG reporting, not quite half of the Fortune 200 issue a formal, annual or biannual responsibility report.

Of those that do, most use the GRI reporting framework.

Check out:

Walmart’s 2013 Global Responsibility Reportwebsite, a rich interactive site featuring a wide range of content including video messages and interactive charts.

Xerox’s 2012 Global Citizenship Report, which consists of a robust website and PDF download center with separate PDFs focused on aspects of its responsibility reporting, making information more accessible for the user.

Kroger’s 2013 Sustainability Report website features an overview video and animation. A complete PDF of all content is also available for download.

Integrated reporting

Combining required financial reporting with responsibility reporting has been adopted by just a few leading companies, including: Southwest, Verizon, Pfizer and United Technologies.

Full integration is still rare in the US, but there is a push from academia to mandate integrated reporting in the future.

Check out:

Pfizer’s 2012 Annual Review is an online-only integrated report complete with videos and a full GRI index. Pfizer produced a postcard site promotion to mail with the 10-K and proxy statement.

United Technologies2012 integrated Annual Report, which consists of a traditional printed report as well as a robust website. Traffic is driven to the report through persistent promotion on both the corporation’s homepage and the IR landing page.

Apps

“Using tablet or smartphone apps for reporting continues to attract interest among trendsetters in the US,” says Michelle – “but once again in very small numbers. That being said, American Electric Power added an iPad version of its robust integrated report.” It’s certainly a trend worth watching closely this year.

Check out:

Nielsen evolved and updated its investor relations app that delivers corporate reports, the latest news, rich media and original content. The annual report is included, but the focus is on broader investor communications.

American Electric Power created an app for its 2013 Corporate Accountability Report featuring an interactive overview of its integrated report.

In a nutshell - Interactive online reports are popular, and use of high quality video is growing;

  • Print remains a mainstay, although print runs and page counts will likely stay at low levels;

  • More companies are issuing responsibility reports or including responsibility reporting in their annual reports;

  • Integrated reporting has been embraced by leading US corporations; and

  • The use of tablets/smart phone apps remains in its infancy.

This article is based on the Ideas on Purpose White Paper, ‘2013 Trends in Corporate Reporting’ by Michelle Marks.