November 21, 2019 Webranking

The state of European corporate websites

By Chris Henson & Timmy Fredriksson

The 500 largest companies in Europe have just been ranked on the extent to which their corporate websites deliver the content that capital markets and jobseekers require. The results in Webranking by Comprend 2019-2020 reveal that companies have a general lack of depth in their investor and governance sections, with greater transparency needed to adequately satisfy a capital market audience. Companies are however putting on their attractive employer hats, as there is a richer abundance of content targeted towards jobseekers than ever before.

The importance of the corporate website

The credibility of information is of the utmost importance and the need to communicate to reach the right audience is becoming an increasingly difficult task. The good thing for listed companies today is that they are obliged to operate a platform that their stakeholders use: the corporate website. It is the most-used source by both the capital market audience and by jobseekers, as both target groups place a great deal of trust in the website - a trust which is only surpassed by the annual report. Indeed, 98% of these stakeholders use the corporate website when seeking all types of information on the company.

When providing the key components of a corporate website, legal requirements often dictate where large listed companies start: providing everything required by law and indices. Branding this content is often another focus, as companies make decisions in terms of: design, UX, imagery and tone-of-voice. A step that is often missed - and therefore becomes a big challenge - is the inclusion of all the information stakeholders want. With this common shortcoming in mind, it's important to consider to what extent Europe's 500 largest companies are delivering the most-sought content for stakeholders and where they might be falling short. This is where the Webranking 2019-2020 results come in.

Debt and governance information on a steady rise

In our Capital Market Report 2019, we unpacked what stakeholders - including analysts, investors, and fund managers - want to see from a corporate website, based on the results of our latest survey. The demand for debt, shareholder, and governance information was at an all-time high, with the following topics of particular importance (on a 1-5 scale, where 5=very important):

  1. Dividend policies (4.3)
  2. Key debt ratios (4.2)
  3. Major shareholders (4.1)
  4. Corporate bonds (4.0)
  5. Board members' skills and independence (4.0)

With the 2019-2020 ranking now complete, we can see that whilst Europe's 500 largest companies are moving in the right direction when it comes to tackling these key topics, the improvements made over the last year are a little underwhelming.


Dividends a relative strong point but progress remains limited

Of the key topics mentioned above, more than half of the desired information is only available for dividends, with the figure standing at 55% - which is unchanged from last year. Only 33% of the key data on major shareholders is available, whilst funding information has improved from 32% to 35% but this also remains an insufficient number considering its importance. There has been a more notable improvement in the quality of governance content regarding the skills and independence of Board members, with an increase from 29% last year to 36% this year. However, this is still a low bar considering that stakeholders registered the information as highly valuable.

One to look at for investor relations in terms of structure and layout is Finnish real estate company Kojamo. Their fulfilment in IR is at 79% and presents a section that is light, easy to navigate and has plenty of entry points to key content.

Top 5 companies in terms of catering to investor needs:

  1. Eni
  2. Sika
  3. BASF
  4. Terna
  5. Snam

Whilst companies need to focus more on supplying the information financial audiences want to see on a corporate website, there is at least better news for another user group.

Companies reacting to the changing tides of a volatile job market

As we explored in our Career Report 2019, the landscape of the job market is very different to what it once was, with employee habits shifting from generation to generation. As an example, millennials tend to be quite nomadic, with as many as 4 in 5 at least keeping their eyes open for their next move - a far cry from the company loyalty of decades past. Europe's largest 500 companies have been reacting to the challenge of attracting and retaining staff, as this year's Webranking data showed some positive trends in how they communicate with jobseekers.

Company values and employee opportunities are front and centre

Jobseekers are more socially conscious than ever before: they want to know what companies stand for, and how they hold themselves to account. This year there has been an increase of 13 percentage points - to an impressive 73% - in companies who present their values (or a link to them) in the career section of their corporate websites. By extension the availability of diversity information has also slightly improved, reflecting inclusivity as an important value for prospective candidates.

Further to a wider social purpose, potential applicants also want to see possibilities for learning and personal growth at a future employer. A solid 62% of Europe's 500 largest companies are presenting information on competence development within their organisations, a small rise from last year. There has also been an increase in the presence of employee testimonials on career sites as well as posts showcasing working life on corporate LinkedIn pages, as companies seek to promote their entire offering.

Top 5 companies in terms of catering to jobseeker needs:

  1. Swisscom
  2. Terna
  3. Snam
  4. Voestalpine
  5. Continental

Although not one of the top 5 scorers, this year's best practice for Careers is L'Oreál. Their nicely laid-out section is full of information on working in different areas of the organisation, whilst there is also plenty of content aimed at entry level candidates. The landing page features external reviews from Glassdoor, giving a transparent and unfiltered impression of life at the company.

Sustainability strategies lay foundations for other content

Of Europe's largest 500 companies, 87% describe their sustainability strategy on their corporate website, a notable increase on last year which reflects the rising importance of sustainability issues for both the capital market and jobseekers. Sustainability has become a fundamental part of company strategy: 61% of companies relate their sustainability approach back to their overall business objectives, an increase of 8 percentage points which shows the Europe 500 reacting to both the interests of their target groups as well as facing up to their societal obligations.

Overall, whilst companies are following up on certain parts of their strategies - compliance information is abundant, for example - other facets of a comprehensive sustainability section are missing. This is particularly evident in the limited environmental and social data available, as well as through the general lack of tax payment figures.

Compliance work shows good corporate citizenship of Europe's largest companies

This year there has been a notable rise in the number of corporate websites that contain a Code of conduct. 82% of the largest 500 companies in Europe present this as a PDF whilst 75% offer a description of the Code directly on the website to provide additional context to the document. 62% of companies also state that there is a Code applying to suppliers, representing a marked increase from last year. This improvement in transparent regulation - not only for company employees but also along the supply chain - is reflective of the link between corporate responsibility and corporate reputation; companies need to put their best foot forward in showcasing how they conduct business.

More data needed to visualise sustainability performance

Despite the positive strides Europe 500 companies have made in 'talking the talk' through their compliance policies and sustainability strategies, more facts and figures are required as evidence of 'walking the walk' when it comes to their performance.

This year, 81% of the professionals who responded to our Capital Market survey placed importance in a company's environmental targets and achievements. Despite this, just 35% of the corporate websites of Europe 500 companies include environmental targets, and even less - 28% - display their recent achievements. Social sustainability data is presented with even less frequency, with just 26% of websites offering targets and 19% achievements. It's a similar story with tax payment figures. 77% of capital market respondents want to see a breakdown of payments per country or region, but only 14% display these figures on their websites whilst a paltry 6% provide a PDF. 

Top 5 companies in terms of catering to stakeholder needs in sustainability:

  1. Snam
  2. Eni
  3. Telecom Italia
  4. Terna
  5. Bayer

This year's best practice company for Sustainability is Evraz. Their 80% fulfilment of the content we rank against leaves them outside the top 5 scorers, but all of the information contained within the section is easy to find, with lots to explore on both health & safety measures and environmental performance. Some of this impact is also highlighted directly on the landing page as recent key figures.

The average European result in Webranking

Including investor relations, governance, careers, and sustainability, Webranking covers ten sections of corporate websites in total. Overall, the websites of the 500 largest European companies have room for improvement. Whilst their homepages, financial reporting content, and general features ranked closer to a decent fulfilment (60%) in what stakeholders expect to see, the other sections have some way to go. Compared to last year's result, both career and shareholder information has increased by 2 and 3 percentage points respectively, whereas there has been a decrease in nearly all other areas. This is mostly due to an increase in stakeholder demands since last year, which is a trend the European companies have yet to follow.

Picture showing 10 donut diagrams according the ten sections covered by Webranking. The donuts show the average fufilment for the ten sections. The fulfilment is determined by dividing the average score of the European companies by the maximum score in each section. The donuts with their respective percentages are showed in the following order: homepage 58%, features and functionalities 58%, reporting 55%, press 53%, careers 46%, about us 45%, sustainability 45%, governance 44%, the share 38% and investor relations 27%.

Average stakeholder fulfilment for the 500 largest companies in Europe

Top Performers & Climber

This year the top three in the Europe 500 Webranking results have a familiar feel. With their score of 92.5, Italian Oil & Gas company Eni show remarkable consistency to remain atop the standings in 1st place for the second year in a row. Snam are close behind in 2nd place with 91.3 points, regaining the runners-up position from Wärtsilä, who are down one place in 3rd this year with their score of 88.7.

This year’s Climber in the Europe 500 list is Essity, who improved by an impressive 20.7 points for an 18th place finish overall - up over 100 places from the last ranking.

RankCompanyScore (out of 100)
1Eni92.5
2Snam91.3
3Wärtsilä88.7
4Terna87.3
5Generali85.8
6Swedish Match83.4
7Skanska82.1
8Valmet82.0
9Poste Italiane81.8
10Kesko81.0
11Swisscom80.6
12Sika78.7
13Leonardo77.9
14Sonova77.5
15BASF76.6
16Vinci76.5
17Repsol75.9
18Essity75.7
19Stora Enso73.9
20Prysmian73.8
21Bayer73.2
22Nokian Tyres73.1
23Fortum72.2
24UPM-Kymmene71.1
25Mediobanca70.8
25Givaudan70.8
27ICA Gruppen70.4
28Neste68.9
29Nestlé68.6
30Huhtamäki68.3

Read more about the Webranking report here.

See the full Europe 500 scores

Helena Wennergren

Head of Research

helena.wennergren@comprend.com

+46 70 971 12 10