BT’s Annual Report and Accounts – A Good Foundation for Integrated Reporting?

My reaction when I was asked in December to work on the sustainability input to our annual report and accounts (ARA) this year was not effusive enthusiasm. I cannot say that I have paid much attention to annual financial reports in the past and I wondered how much attention others pay to them. But I see a lot of focus on integrated reporting and so I took on the challenge. As you will know if you follow me on twitter, many rounds of editing are involved.  BT’s annual report came out on Friday. You can see an interactive pdf of it here, and even download it if you are so minded.   I put a lot of time and effort into it so PAY ATTENTION 🙂

What would I like you to notice in our ARA?

I would like you to notice that “to be a responsible and sustainable business leader” is now one of our six strategic priorities for BT.  The other five are direct business related imperatives, so to have sustainability as one of the six is a strong statement of commitment to sustainability

I would like you to notice that there is some component of CR or sustainability in every subsection of the main “Business Review”.  I am very proud of that. Each one of our business units reported on something in the sustainability space that is specific and material to their business. At first glance you might ask why I make a big deal of this, but when you are writing a primarily financial report, with business units that have only two pages within which to explain revenues of many billions of pounds, for every line of business of the company to report a sustainability angle is an important step.

I would like you to notice, but how could you not,  that each paragraph mentioning CR or sustainability is marked with a leaf. Like this   We went round in circles on this identifier. It makes the CR content stand out, but does that show we integrate it, or does that indicate we think CR is different?   I came to the conclusion myself that the readership of ARAs are not yet accustomed to noticing CR material embedded in the main text, so it is better to make it stand out.  Others agreed too and that is what we did.  What do you think?

I would like you to notice our sustainability KPIs too and how we try to relate each one to a financial metric.  You can see the full set of KPIs laid out in the pdf of our summary sustainability report here too.  We have more to do here, but I think we have made a good start.  What do you think?

I would like you to notice that in the stand alone CR section we divided our activities into three areas; (1) building stronger communities, (2) reducing carbon emissions and our impact on the environment and (3) behaving responsibly. Is this a helpful categorization or a distraction?

We have much still to do, but I think we have put the right things in place to incorporate the principles of integrated reporting.  Do you?

Take a look at our annual report and accounts and let us know what you think.

 


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