Best Practice Awards: Delivering a consistent and holistic approach to ESG reporting

Nick Rose, ​Head of Reporting Communications at FleishmanHillard Fishburn and member of the IR Society's Best Practice Committee, shares his thoughts on the 'Best Communication of ESG' award, what to look out for and why you should be entering.

I have been entering the Investor Relations Society awards for many years and have been honoured to win the Best Annual Report award on a couple of occasions. It has always given both the corporate that I have been partnering with and the agency that I work for immense pride to be acknowledged on such a prestigious stage in front of all our peers.

This year, I was invited to sit on the Best Practice Committee at the IR Society alongside a broad cross-section of company and industry experts. We have worked together refining the awards criteria for the 2019 Best Practice Awards to ensure they reflect changes in the operating and regulatory environment. The promotion of best practice in IR is one of the cornerstones of the IR Society's existence and the annual Awards play a crucial role in this.

The Award - Best Communication of ESG

Along side subtle refinements to the awards criteria, the title has changed, reflecting the ever-evolving environment in investor engagement on environmental, social and governmental issues. It is no-longer just about looking to integrate ESG into a business’ communication but about a consistent year-round approach to communicating to investors and wider stakeholders. Businesses should provide insight into how ESG risks and opportunities are identified, understood and proactively managed and measured to contribute to their competitive advantage. As well as have a positive impact on the employees, associated communities and operational partners.

What to look out for

We recognise that this is a developing area for many companies and each will be at different stages of their journey, but we would like businesses to demonstrate the changes to their internal approaches and that ownership of ESG communication does not rest with one department or team. This is about a cross section of departments working together to deliver a consistent and holistic approach to ESG. We acknowledge that some businesses will use global frameworks and reporting criteria, but understand that this is not achievable for all. We would like businesses to define the approach that is relevant and achievable for them.

What do the judges want?

In the current environment businesses are expected to be more considerate beyond their immediate boundaries and demonstrate societal purpose. Ultimately judges will be looking for evidence of this through a clearly defined approach with a consistent and proactive point of view on material ESG issues and long-term value creation backed up with communications to all the diverse investors.

Currently there are many companies who communicate their wide ranging ESG issues and approaches in a positive and engaging manner across all UK indices and we would urge all these businesses, regardless of their size, to enter the awards this year.

Last year’s award winners and those who were shortlisted can be accessed on the IR Society website, with notable praise going to Howdens ‘for a distinctive and well-presented report throughout, with excellent communications around inclusion and diversity’ and BASF who ‘integrated and measured approaches  to their ESG communications. Judges particularly liked the savvy use of social media content around sustainability’.

What is the benefit?

Beyond the obvious excitement and celebrations that your hard work could be being publicly rewarded; the peer recognition of being shortlisted; and the ratings agencies recognising the positive impacts that awards can generate, there are additional less obvious benefits to submitting an entry.

The process of completing an award entry can often feel a cathartic experience. It pushes you to consider the content, process and communications that the business has gone through during the year. As well as offering the opportunity to think ahead to see how it can be improved for next year.

In my experience there is plenty to gain from entering the awards, so please find the relevant information available to download here.

Nick Rose
Head of Reporting Communications , FleishmanHillard Fishburn

Published 28 March, 2019