Swedish companies better at sustainability – IR leaves much to be desired
By Timmy Fredriksson
Webranking by Comprend – the leading global ranking of corporate websites – releases this year’s results for the 100 largest Swedish companies. Unfortunately, there is a noticeable downward trend in investor relations scores. On a more positive note, although most of them have a long way to go to reach full transparency, Swedish companies are increasingly better at communicating their sustainability work – an area where they clearly outshine other regions.
Sustainability communication is increasingly clearer
Swedish companies are making progress regarding sustainability communication. This year’s results show that they have succeeded in fulfilling the capital market audience’s expectations to a high degree. In 2013, the average score across this section was 30%, compared to 45% this year. Since 2013, improvements have been primarily made to ways of presenting sustainability strategies, sustainability reports, materiality analyses and information regarding tax payments and anti-corruption.
Although 82% of the Swedish companies now include their sustainability strategy on their websites, on par with the 500 biggest companies in Europe, there’s still some way to go before reaching full stakeholder fulfilment. Strategies provide a direction for how companies intend to tackle their challenges, but it is important to also list sustainability data. This will demonstrate the current state of affairs and indicate whether or not the strategy is feasible. Additionally, the data can be presented against sustainability targets to make it easier to see how and when these targets will be met.
Sustainability data is missing
Data on sustainability practices – such as Co2-emissions, energy consumption or waste management – is something that Swedish companies generally fail to showcase. 40% of the companies taking part in this year’s Webranking presented data for one environmental area, whilst only 22% presented data for two or more environmental areas. The numbers for social data, such as equality, health and safety and training, are even lower: 30% of the surveyed companies presented data for one area and only 15% presented data for two or more areas.
Sandvik is the Swedish company that performed the best on criteria related to sustainability communication. Their strategy is backed up by data, clear goals and a sustainability report that stands apart from their annual report.
IR sections still struggle with details
Over the past few years, Swedish companies have raised their average scores when it came to meeting capital market expectations of IR content on corporate websites. This year, however, they have taken a step back. On average, only 36% of the capital market’s expectations are met. Given the importance of this target group, in the form of investors, shareholders and business journalists, the figure is equally a warning sign and an opportunity. Looking at the results from the 500 largest companies in Europe, Sweden did fare slightly better: 36% versus Europe’s 29%.
Swedish companies are generally very good at dealing with certain areas within IR, but unclear or even inadequate when it comes to others. One example is the overall company strategy, which is showcased by 91% of the Swedish companies included in this year’s Webranking. However, when it comes to clarifying their strategy by presenting concrete steps to be taken to implement it, it is often up to the visitor to figure it out for themselves – only 32% of these companies included this content in their IR sections.
Look towards the future
In an unpredictable world, there is much to gain by daring to be clear about your thoughts about the future. As previously mentioned, Swedish companies often discuss their overall company strategy. While this is always a welcome addition to corporate websites, being transparent about the strategy execution is a different story.
Looking at financial reporting, Swedish companies are good at fulfilling stakeholder expectations: 97% offer annual and interim reports as PDFs on their web pages, most of them have a long history of reports available and the PDFs are user-friendly, including bookmarks and navigation. Let’s refer to the reports as ‘facts’ for the sake of brevity. When it comes to the company outlook, a useful tool for building the image of a company that is prepared for the future, Swedish companies are falling behind other regions. While the facts are there to illustrate what has been achieved, there is obviously a basis for Swedish companies to provide transparent outlooks, well-grounded in their reports. But out of all the Swedish companies, only 10% presents a market outlook and 8% presents a financial outlook. On a more positive note, however, Swedish companies score better when it comes to presenting their financial targets: 61% versus the 22% average of their European counterparts.
Skanska was the best Swedish performer for IR communications. They provide a clear historical overview in the form of reports and target achievements, as well as well-grounded outlooks in the form of strategies with concrete steps and financial goals.
Experienced companies perform better
A trend that is becoming more pronounced is the fact that experienced companies, which have been listed for a longer time, tend to perform better when it comes to stakeholder fulfilment. This could be explained by the fact that stakeholders tend to highly value a long history of reports, KPI’s and data. Epiroc (previously part of Atlas Copco) received 36.4 points out of 100 in this year’s ranking compared to 59.6 for Atlas Copco. Veoneer (previously part of Autoliv) received 35 points compared to 57.6 for Autoliv. This trend also caught our attention last year, when SCA was split up into SCA and Essity, and Essity received a much lower score than SCA. This year, Essity received 55 points compared to 60.5 for SCA. The sections where company offshoots generally lack content - which they can't present - are reporting, shareholder information and sustainability.
Actively working on communication pays off
It’s clear that the companies that actively work on their transparency perform better when it comes to meeting stakeholder expectations. For example, Cloetta has once again taken the stage as number one in this year’s Webranking by Comprend.
“Cloetta has always strived to have one of the best and most transparent web pages among Swedish listed companies. To receive the award as best in Sweden for the third consecutive year is very pleasing and proof that our methodological work within digital communications yields results,” said Jacob Broberg, SVP Communications & Investor Relations at Cloetta.
This year, Cloetta scored 85.1 out of 100, which is the highest in Sweden and in the Food & Beverage sector. Skanska is still the runner up, scoring 84 points, whilst Swedish Match climbs to third place. This year’s top climber is Munters Group, which improved from 32.1 points last year to 51 points this year – an impressing increase of 18.9 points.
Read the full Swedish results