We set out to answer that question, and having crunched the numbers, found that the quality of information being presented by companies on their corporate website is actually worse off than 10 years ago.
One of the key trends we’re seeing is this: Mobile has forced companies to shrink the size of websites to make them manageable from smaller screens; social has driven a focus on “storytelling” and engagement. This has led to the rise of “corporate branding” and the decline of “corporate transparency.”
At the same time, stakeholders’ expectations for transparent communication has never been higher. Whistle-blowing efforts from investigations such as the Panama & Paradise Papers have continued to expose the hidden agendas of the largest corporations, and the public outcry has never been greater.
We teamed up with Forbes to tell this story – one that is backed up by rigorous facts and data. Here’s what we found out.
Stakeholders crave greater transparency
In looking back over the last ten years, we expected to find that companies had made great strides towards transparency. After all, as Forbes reports, ten years ago major world events like the onset of the financial crisis or the launch of Apple’s first iPhone were already beginning to reshape the way in which companies were communicating to their stakeholders.
What the data shows, surprisingly, is that companies are actually communicating less transparently on topics deemed critically important to stakeholders, such as conducting business ethically and presenting remuneration of top line management. In a world post Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, and Basel I, II, III, you might expect that transparency on executive pay would be on the rise. When looking at the figures, only 9% of companies actually publish this information today, as opposed to 13% in 2007. This, compared to the 87% of stakeholders wanting to see these figures, acts to highlights the lack of transparency on this topic.
Great Expectations for Ethical Business
In recent years, we’ve seen the number of companies communicating their commitment to reducing their impact on the environment rise from 28% in 2007 to 47% in 2017, though we are hopeful that the new European directive on non-financial information (obligatory in some European countries, such as Italy) will drive transparency on these areas still further.
Even key financial leaders, like BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink, are calling on companies to step up their game when it comes to good corporate citizenship and social and environmental responsibility.
This growing attention to sustainability, and the expectation that companies communicate on initiatives for responsible corporate citizenship may be the impetus that companies need in order to up their game when it comes to transparency on non-financial information.
It’s not all bad news though
We’ve seen a handful of companies demonstrate a consistent dedication to transparency in their communications, withstanding the test of time. Uk-based Communicate Magazine covered the performance of the top scoring British companies in the research this year, providing an in-depth overview of the evolution of communications in the UK over the years. The Italian performance was covered by L’Economia del Corriere della Sera. To read a summary of Italy’s performance within the research, read our blog here.
Top performers over the years
Italian oil and gas company Eni and Finnish energy company Fortum have made it into the top scoring companies of the research each year for the past decade, while telecommunications company Telecom Italia has makes it 9 years out of ten.
Swedish personal and household goods company SCA falls in the top 10 7 years out of ten, while Italian utility company Snam and Swedish tobacco company Swedish Match both land among the top ten six years running.
This year, the top scoring companies are Italian gas infrastructure company Snam with 94.2 points, followed by Italian energy company Eni with 92.4 and Finnish energy technology company Wartsila in third at 92.1. Italian transmission grid operator Terna is this year’s best improver, scoring 18.8 points higher than last year.