June 2017


8



SYMPOSIUM

Reporting – overcoming the illusory world
Geschäftsberichte-Symposium 2016 – a review

Von Kristin Köh­ler und Rea Wag­n­er / Foto: zVg

How to avoid, pre­vent, dis­perse an ­illu­so­ry world – that was the mis­sion of this year’s Geschäfts­berichte- Sym­po­sium (GBS) host­ed by the Cen­ter for Cor­po­rate Report­ing (CCR). How can those respon­si­ble for report­ing cre­ate an authen­tic, ­easy-to-under­stand and rel­e­vant ­stake­hold­er-ori­ent­ed report? 

Report­ing – an extract of cor­po­rate real­i­ty

Indi­vid­u­als respon­si­ble for report­ing and com­munications are called upon more than ever to make senior man­age­ment and oper­a­tional units aware of the links between cor­po­rate cul­ture, behav­ior and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. An illu­so­ry world becomes evi­dent when the annu­al report is viewed as a hand­some image brochure that projects a cor­po­rate cul­ture and man­age­ment that has very lit­tle to do with the cor­po­rate real­i­ties of man­age­ment, strate­gic direc­tion and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance in a com­pa­ny.

Report­ing can only high­light an extract of cor­po­rate real­i­ty. So then the ques­tion aris­es: is the focus on pure finan­cials and quar­ter­ly per­for­mance, or do investors get to see and under­stand the busi­ness mod­el, long-term strate­gic direc­tion, oppor­tu­ni­ties and risk man­age­ment that includes input and out­put fac­tors? Peter Bakker, Chair­man and CEO WBCSD (World Busi­ness Coun­cil for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment), Dr Dominique Bie­der­mann, Chair­man Ethos Foun­da­tion, Dr Mir­jam Staub-Bisang, CEO Inde­pen­dent Cap­i­tal Group, and Dr Rudolf Wehrli, Chair­man Clari­ant, made a strong case for the lat­ter – in so far as this reflects the cor­po­rate real­i­ty. Prof. Dr Axel P. Lehmann, Group Chief Oper­at­ing Offi­cer, UBS, insists that “We need to report on a quar­ter­ly basis and still com­mu­ni­cate our long-term strat­e­gy.”

We need to report on a quar­ter­ly basis and still com­mu­ni­cate our long-term strat­e­gy.

Axel P. Lehmann

The role of com­mu­ni­ca­tors

One thing is cer­tain: if report­ing is not authen­tic you jeop­ar­dize the stake­hold­er trust that has been cement­ed over a long peri­od of time: “Trust comes on foot, but leaves on Face­book” (Peter Bakker). Those respon­si­ble for report­ing can under­score the con­nec­tion between authen­tic­i­ty and cred­i­bil­i­ty – and lend sup­port in its anchor­ing with­in the com­pa­ny. Nat­u­ral­ly, report­ing always reflects cor­po­rate man­age­ment: Inte­grat­ed Report­ing as a holis­tic report­ing approach means noth­ing with­out inte­grat­ed think­ing, accord­ing to Bakker. Nev­er­the­less, annu­al report doers are impor­tant cat­a­lysts. They con­vey the var­i­ous stake­hold­er demands inter­nal­ly to man­age­ment. In essence, in their role as com­mu­ni­ca­tors, they sup­port inter­nal trans­for­ma­tion process­es and inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion, and report in var­i­ous media on the direc­tion of the com­pa­ny.

Pub­lic val­ue is what the pub­lic val­ues.

Timo Meyn­hardt


Through active stake­hold­er man­age­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als are asked to inte­grate the rel­e­vant top­ics ema­nat­ing from the per­spec­tive of the com­pa­ny and from diverse stake­hold­ers into the company’s inter­nal deci­sion-mak­ing process­es and report­ing. Prof. Dr Timo Meyn­hardt, Chair at the Dr Arend Oetk­er Fac­ul­ty for Busi­ness Psy­chol­o­gy and Man­age­ment, HHL Leipzig Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment, and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Lead­er­ship and Val­ues in Soci­ety, Uni­ver­si­ty of St. Gal­len, sum­ma­rizes this as fol­lows:

Key Learn­ings

– Com­pa­nies can­not help but engage with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers if they want to be suc­cess­ful in the long term

– The annu­al report is only the start, the com­pendi­um of cor­po­rate his­to­ry – that includes the past, but more impor­tant­ly the future, too. How­ev­er, this “sto­ry” must be con­sis­tent­ly told over all chan­nels and reflect busi­ness real­i­ty

– Com­mu­ni­ca­tors have an impor­tant coor­di­nat­ing role in fos­ter­ing inte­grat­ed think­ing with­in the com­pa­ny

– Build­ing trust through trans­paren­cy and authen­tic­i­ty is not sole­ly a com­mu­ni­ca­tion task. The finan­cials and non-finan­cials must be bet­ter unit­ed – in account­ing, cor­po­rate val­u­a­tion and in report­ing. An over­haul of the finan­cial account­ing stan­dards to include non-finan­cials in account­ing rules and val­u­a­tion approach­es will come accord­ing to Bakker, and the exist­ing view of a com­pa­ny will fun­da­men­tal­ly change

– Com­pa­nies need to real­ize that sus­tain­able invest­ments even­tu­al­ly lose the label of “eco” or “green” not least through their proven out­per­for­mance as they gain the atten­tion of investors

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