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The Annual Report on Annual Reports

Panel favourites

Regardless of whether it is a website, magazine, or annual report, we all have our favourites. Despite knowing that it might not be perfect or meet all of our requirements, our favourites have something extra, something that speaks to us. Here are the panel members' favourite annual reports this year.

It might not be a huge surprise that some of their favourite picks are the same. The clear winner also here is SCA, with three of the panel members selecting them as a favourite, followed by Novozymes, SKF, Sappi, and Stora Enso.  Read more about the panel members.

Susan's favourites

1. Novozymes

Novozymes always shines, but this year they managed to surprise me with a huge leap forward: elegantly combining financial and non-financial statements. Akzo Nobel had the best financial statements and Novo Nordisk had the best non-financial statements, but Novozymes, the world’s first integrated reporter, is once again in a league of its own.

Screenshot of Novozyme's annual report

2. Sasol

What they do better than anyone: explain why they report what they do, how to use their reporting, how a chemical company builds social capital – and use that reporting to build trust. This is not only a strong report, it’s the best example of how to put a reporting suite to good use.

Many, many elegant diagrams. Complete, but user friendly. Few companies manage this, and Sasol is a standout.

3. Vattenfall

Incredibly robust, transparent report that is uncompromisingly integrated. Great examples of disclosure throughout, made clear by SUPER clean design. The world’s best report by a state-owned enterprise. (I use this one frequently as an example in emerging markets and it’s one of the first reports I look at every year.)

4. Ahold Delhaize

I was surprised at how good this was and how much I liked it—a few years ago, this was a marketing puff piece. This is my vote for not only a great report, but most improved as well. Great non-financial review placed ahead of financial review. Non-financial assurance. Great stakeholder reporting, and great effort put into linking purpose/strategy/performance to the stakeholder perspective. (In contrast, the ICA report has more of an introspective, monologue feel to it.)

5. JHK

Extremely thorough and robust—a good integrated report with non-financial assurance and a lot of good data. The structure is a bit convoluted, but it’s a complex conglomerate, which can make things like strategy disclosure tough. I liked the tone and the low-key design. It’s rare that I read a report and think I’d like to not only invest, but also work with these people. This is a confidence inspiring report. One of the most inspiring, credible reports I’ve seen out of Asia this year. What they did best: a strong outlook section and thoughtful Covid 19 reporting.

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Kellie's favourites

1. SCA

Information is presented extremely well - the use of graphics to tell the story help keep the reader engaged and supplement the in-depth information throughout the report. Appreciate the comprehensive table of contents, which helps guide the reader through such a robust piece! The project portfolio and strategy show a successful track record and long-term thinking. Appreciated the detailed discussion of strategy and operations, along with the sustainability content.

Screenshot from SCA' annual report

2. Taylor Wimpey

Love the upfront discussion on the TW Difference. Great summary of the investor value proposition, which is humanised with images of people. Really liked the group management Q&A - a different and informative way to showcase the team and highlight some key factors of their long-term strategy. Good overview of 2023 goals – both progress to date and priorities. The ESG section is pretty strong, especially governance. Liked the focus on each stakeholder group. The Q&A with the chair-designate is a nice addition. Financials could have been presented in a more visual manner. Appreciated the icons used to show users how to access more information on a particular topic.

3. AstraZeneca

Always like a good theme to help tell a story! Appreciate the at a glance section, but wish it was a bit easier to read. Liked there was a note from the Chairman used to supplement CEO message. Including a CFO message with the financials was a nice addition, too! Background on healthcare in a changing world is helpful. Liked the bold transition to the strategy discussion - has a magazine-like feel. Loved the plays on the word "next" throughout the review of the business and strategy discussion - more creative than most reports, for sure. However, this was balanced by a ton of great information, industry insight, data, and proven results.

4. Melia Hotels

Nice, clean design - on brand. A lot of great info and data similar to others, but the design simplicity made it easy to read/follow. Really liked the milestones presentation - unique and informative! Appreciated the way it reflected on their past strategic plan, as well as the forward looking discussion on the new plan AND long-term (2030) agenda. Governance and ESG sections were okay. Wish there was a little more content on the leadership team. Did include mentions on board diversity.

5. Adidas

SHARP intro to online report, reminiscent of a commercial. Really wish this design dynamic carried throughout – feels like a missed opportunity. Easy to navigate and good, solid content. Liked the overview of the leadership team - not just the CEO. Liked the in-depth discussion on people and stories integrated throughout to show they are living it, not just writing about it.

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Kaevan's top 5

1. SCA

Excellently structured, clear presentation. Good mix of strategy and figures. Highly substantial sustainability data. Hard to top.

2. AkzoNobel

Sophisticated presentation of key figures. Attractive presentation but lacks a more stringent structure. Good sustainability statistics.

Screenshot of AkzoNobel's annual report

3. Novozymes

Thorough overview of commercial and sustainability figures. Slide format makes for easy navigation. Beyond that, a crisp presentation of rather complicated strategy. In my opinion, definitely better than ICA and Volvo.

3. SKF

"How SKF creates value" is an excellent example of a holistic approach. However, navigating the report is strenuous. Clear about not reaching growth target, excellent contrast of targets and results.

5. Alfa Laval

Good, systematic approach. Very methodical, though not attractive in visual terms. Particularly good: the market view including a listing of competitors and their market position. Warrants being shifted up to the top reports.

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Mike's top picks

SKF

The company asking when you have relied on reliable rotation answers by relying on highly reliable reporting. A classic Swedish pattern, with a powerful introduction and a solid narrative: e.g. business drivers, global presence, areas, risks, comments on statements and segments, and so on. Sustainability statements are worth a look, too.

Sappi

Business model and operating context introduced clearly and without delay. Strategic objectives, performance, risks, key relationships, material issues – and the links between them are handled with clarity. Well-supported CFO’s report. Highest transparency on governance. In short, many of the ingredients to put an A report on paper (and online).

Screenshot of Sappi's annual report

Chugai Pharmaceutical

Departs from the usual form in pharmaceutical reporting without sacrificing contents. Outstanding section dedicated to the value creation model: key value indicators, value provided, examination of innovation, analysis of business model. Financial and pre-financial highlights built on graphs and showing relationships of indicators. Substantiated messages from top officers. Overview of mid-term business plan.

Epiroc

Spun off from Atlas Copco in 2018, Epiroc has what it takes to meet Swedish best reporting practices. Readers don’t need to dig deep to check performance, learn about their business operations and their benefits, or get a clear view of key risks.

Smith & Nephew

A microsite makes access to the annual report (a bit) easier. This report is rich in content, e.g. for market development, ten long-term aspirational goals, risk management life cycle (and principal risks), a timeline for the coming year, and a robust chapter on Governance in action.

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Vijith's favourites

1. SKF

Why invest in SKF? This is perhaps the only question that needs to be addressed in an annual report. This annual report does a very good job of answering this in a holistic manner. It has used various reporting frameworks without being a slave to any and without letting them distract from the well-structured storyline.

2. Umicore

An excellent report. Starts with a relevant statement on the Company’s response to COVID-19, one of the very few companies to have done this. The connection between risks and opportunities, strategy, management approach, governance, and performance are very well established with just the right amount of information to make it credible and understandable.

3. Solvay

A very good integrated report. Brings out the company’s new strategy very well and also connects it with governance, including remuneration. However, it defies a key precept of integrated reporting: conciseness. They could have done away with the exhaustive and seemingly boilerplate management report and, instead, built in the most important aspects of it into the first section (titled Reinventing Solvay) and providing external links where necessary. The online HTML version has a well-balanced, clean layout with subtle animations, which builds interest and invites the user to browse/scroll through. The HTML also uses an ideal font size, which can be read on both desktop and mobile. Look and feel is a refreshing change from the usual.

4. Clorox

An excellent report. Has brought out a cohesive and credible story on how the company is living its strategy. Uses many relevant reporting frameworks in a meaningful manner rather than the tick box approach often seen in other reports. Nice design. Even the online HTML is interesting, with different style of animations. Suggest bringing in a two-page infographic on the business model that connects everything together. For example, connecting strategy with risks and opportunities based on emerging trends in the external environment and stakeholder needs, as well as the results chain beginning from inputs and all the way through to impact vis-à-vis the company’s stated purpose.

5. Novozymes

Well structured, written, and designed report. Honest and forthright letters from the Board of Directors as well as the CEO are refreshing. The strategy is clearly articulated along three focus areas and four enablers. As a business that is clearly punching below its weight as brought out unequivocally in this annual report, this company is an ideal candidate for using the International <IR> Framework for bringing out its true value. The highlights in the online HTML are also well presented with attractive micro-interactions and an interesting browse-through.

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Screenshot from SKF's annual report

Reg's favourites

1. Clariant

Excellent online, good navigation and interactivity. Provides real depth of information. One of the best I've seen. The report is well written, presents the information in a clear precise and user-friendly manner. I really like the approach to reading the report along three thematic focus routes: idea to market, market to customer, and customer to cash.

Screenshot of Clariant's annual report

2. Cloetta

This report really draws you in. It presents itself in an open and honest manner, is easy to read, and gives you a great understanding of the reason the company exists and its purpose. It provides you with a real insight into the who, why, what, and how. The strapline on the cover reads 'We believe in the power of true joy' and, well, I found it a true joy to read. Shame there's no online, could be really exciting.

3. Sappi

I'm a real advocate of integrated thinking and reporting, and I found this report to be an outstanding example of that. It truly delivers in a well written, concise, and holistic manner. It provides the reader with real insight into Sappi's understanding that the long-term sustainability of its business will only be ensured by delivering sustained value for all its stakeholders. It’s also well structured, with a strong theme. A great piece of communication.

4. Stora Enso

I was struck by the structured approach of this report, clearly divided into four clearly sign posted sections with a strong theme – 'The renewable materials company' – running throughout. I also found the magazine design style gave it a very engaging feel and it certainly delivers on information. Good use of infographics and visuals. Overall, it provides a real in-depth insight to Stora Enso. A great read that deserves to be an A+.

5. Symrise

A very well written, engaging, and informative report, rich with great stories and visuals, especially throughout the Magazine section. Good interview with the CEO too. The report gives you a real sense for the culture and beliefs of the company and the way it approaches what it does and its purpose. The corporate report provides a good overview of the financials, but the reader can obtain in-depth financials in the separate financial report. Both documents are downloadable from the online review. Good communication overall.

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Johan 's top 5

1. Atlas Copco

A clear link between trends, impact, actions, and priorities, combined with articles outlining context. Solid financial and corporate governance section.

2. Aeroflot

A very thorough story about strategy backed up by market data, development, and strategic priorities.

3. Wienerberger

A compelling equity story that provides insights on why we should invest in the company, combined with figures to back it up. Lots of illustrations that helps the reader understand complex issues, such as a very useful section on how the company generates and uses cashflow - the essence of value creation.

4. Stora Enso

For its clear storytelling and link between purpose and business model.

5. SCA

It gives insights into how their product fits into the overall global sustainability trends and market drivers and why SCA will be able to create value in that environment.

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Read more about the panel members

Screenshot of Atlas Copco's annual report

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