Digitalisation will help solve many of the challenges of integrated reporting but the transition may not be easy, according to real-life case studies presented at the ICGN-IIRC conference in London in December.
When French food company Danone decided to produce an online-only version of its integrated report this year, the aim was to focus on being more concise while providing relevant information on 16 material topics to a diverse range of stakeholders.
Jessica Jugganadum, sustainability reporting manager at Danone, said: “It was quite challenging to work on this digital tool—create it, and make sure that the information we were putting online was relevant, verified and readable online.
“Another challenge was the number of people we needed to work with. There were 30 topic owners—people who are experts on the 16 material topics,” she said.
The first thing you encounter on the website are videos, each of which should illustrate an aspect of Danone’s business model but also its relation to its stakeholders. There are many examples of projects where Danone is working to improve the health and lives of people around the world. For example, it highlights its phosphatine project, aimed at tackling anaemia in Africa by offering instant cereals enriched with iron for babies.
“We wanted to illustrate value creation for Danone at the local level. We explain why each topic matters to us, how Danone is working to solve each issue and how each project creates value—not only the economic aspect but also the social and environmental side,” said Jugganadum.
There has been good and bad news since the website was launched. Jugganadum was disappointed to find that many investors still wanted a printable version. The company has had to backtrack slightly and is working on a combination of online and PDF versions.
Analysis of Danone’s web traffic also provided positives and negatives. The bad news was that the integrated report was the last section visited on Danone.com. The good news was that people spent the longest time on the pages of the integrated report—12 minutes on average.
“It comes down to the materiality and quality of the information,” said Jugganadum. “The more you report on material issues, on what is relevant to your company, the more your audience will be attracted by that.”
Dawn Cowie is a contributing editor to Board Agenda.