What do investors, analysts and journalists look for on corporate websites?
By Freja Nilsson
Managing a corporate website is a difficult balancing act to meet the needs of a wide range of stakeholders. To help companies understand the ever-growing expectations, we conduct a Capital Market survey each year to ask analysts, investors and business journalists what their website requirements are.
Our yearly Capital Market survey asks investors, analysts and business journalists which information they expect to find on corporate websites, and how important they find the information. The answers form the base for the Webranking 2022-2023 criteria.
In this year's Capital Market survey, we observed five key trends:
The importance of providing information on risk management (especially environmental risks) has increased
Geopolitical risks are of high importance, mainly due to the increased political instability in the world
With the ESEF (European Single Electronic Format) now being required for all listed European companies, XBRL-reporting should be considered a new standard for all companies
Stakeholders have increased expectations of companies when it comes to transparency, and they expect to find a separate corporate governance report
Corporate audiences have very high expectations when it comes to sustainability information
Our world is becoming increasingly unstable and uncertain, being filled with many different types of risks. In recent years, pandemics, natural disasters, wars and other political conflicts threatened the stability of many companies.
The increased uncertainty makes it more important than ever to have thorough risk management processes and to communicate them on your corporate website (in addition to the Annual Report). Investors want to see that a company is prepared to handle risks directly on their website, since they need this information to make an informed investment decision.
In this year's Capital Market survey, we see that the importance of having information about all risk types has increased. In particular, investors, analysts and business journalists want to know about financial risks and operational risks.
Interest in environmental risks has increased significantly since our last Capital Market survey. Environmental risks cover all types of risks related to the environment, for example, extreme weather, decreased water supply and soil degradation. With the effects of global warming becoming more and more severe, it is vital that companies show that they are prepared to handle these risks.
Ashtead Group presents different types of risks in a very clear way, including arrows indicating if the risk is predicted to be increased, constant or decreased. They also connect the risks to their strategic priorities, clearly showing how they plan to manage the risk. A section for emerging risks is also included.
With the war in Ukraine shifting the geopolitical balance in the world, the relevance of providing information on which geopolitical risks apply to a company is high.
The BlackRock investment institute has launched a Geopolitical Risk Indicator, where the overall geopolitical risk indicator was at the highest level in over a year in April (mainly as a result of the Russia and Nato conflict). Other geopolitical risks stakeholders are interested in include major cyberattacks, political crises in emerging economies, changing climate policies and global technology decoupling.
As ESEF (European Single Electronic Format) is required for all listed companies in all European countries for Annual Reports covering the financial year of 2021, it should now be considered a new standard for all companies.
The consolidated financial statements of listed companies will from now on be freely available in the public domain in a machine-readable format. This means that financial reports will be easily comparable regardless of language, structure and format. It will also enable investors, public authorities and issuers to do automated analyses of financial information.
To comply with the new regulations, companies should provide an XBRL-package (in for example ZIP) containing all necessary files. In addition to providing the XBRL-package, companies should provide an Inline XBRL viewer that allows the reader to open an XBRL file directly in their internet browser. Inline XBRL is a structured data language that allows filers to prepare a single document that is both human-readable and machine-readable. The Inline XBRL viewer makes the XBRL tagged content dynamic and immediately usable and is available as open-source software.
KBC's ESEF compliant Annual Report is available as a downloadable zip package and can be opened directly in a browser in an Inline XBRL viewer.
Companies face high expectations from stakeholders when it comes to transparency. For example, stakeholders expect to find a separate corporate governance report (in addition to the Annual Report). According to the respondents of our Capital Market survey, a full corporate governance report is the second most important governance-related information on a corporate website. Information about the board member's skills and independence is the most important.
A corporate governance report reflects how a company monitors the actions, policies, practices and decisions of the organisation, as well as the effect of its actions on stakeholders.
A governance report should include:
Statements of Disclosure of Governance Procedures
Information about the Board of Directors (Board Composition, Committees, Succession and Remuneration)
Internal control and risk management
Auditing (internal and external)
Amplifon provides an informative landing page for their corporate governance section, including links to relevant sections. They also provide a link to a separate archive for governance reports, making it easy to find. Additionally, the governance report archive includes a history of eight years of reports.
Investors, analysts and business journalists have very high expectations when it comes to a company's sustainability information on their websites. It is difficult to gain trust from these stakeholders and it is no longer enough to provide general sustainability statements without complementing them with data and concrete actions.
One of the respondents of the survey said the following about sustainability information:
"Usually, the information regarding ESG at a company website is very general and doesn't really give out any detailed information to help me as a journalist and researcher understand HOW the company is working with and implementing the ESG-policies. More details and a more comprehensible presentation of the HOW of ESG within the company would be highly appreciated."
In addition to this, we see that more stakeholders are using the information in sustainability reports (70% compared with 62% last year) and more prefer to read the sustainability report in an online format (63% compared with 59% last year). It has also become more important to provide sustainability information in the online annual report.