A4S Reporting Guides and Examples

The guides and examples below refer to ‘Connected Reporting’. This was a concept developed by A4S which has since developed into what is now commonly known as ‘Integrated Reporting’.

What is Connected Reporting?

Connected reporting aimed to provide a new approach to corporate reporting to address the growing dissatisfaction, among both preparers and users, with the incompleteness, length and complexity of many organizations’ Annual Report and Accounts.

A connected report focuses on the needs of long-term investors and executive management.

Reported information should identify and explain the connection between the organization’s strategic objectives, the industry, market and social context within which the business operates, the associated risks and opportunities it faces, the key resources and relationships on which it depends, and the governance, reward and remuneration structures in place.

Further, it should explain the connection between delivery of the business’s strategy and its financial and non-financial performance.

The result is a more concise, rounded and balanced picture of an organization’s overall performance, which reflects the organization’s strategy and the way it is managed.

The principles which underlie connected reporting (and subsequently Integrated Reporting) are:

  • sustainability issues should be clearly linked to the organization’s overall strategy;
  • sustainability and more conventional financial information should be presented together so that a more complete and balanced picture of the organization’s performance is given; and
  • there should be consistency in presentation to aid comparability between years and organizations.

How does Connected Reporting link to Integrated Reporting?

A4S developed the “Connected Reporting Framework” (CRF) in 2007 and the Connected Reporting “how to” guide in 2009, which explain how all areas of organizational performance can be presented in a connected, integrated way, reflecting the organization’s strategy and the way it is managed.

Following the success of the work undertaken by A4S and others in driving forward this agenda, at the A4S Forum event on 17th December 2009 His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, called for an ‘International Integrated Reporting Council’ to be established to oversee the development of an international connected and integrated approach to corporate reporting. 

The IIRC was subsequently established by A4S in collaboration with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in 2010.

The A4S’ connected reporting guidance can therefore be relevant to organizations wishing to apply connected, integrated principles to their current reporting processes.

This can be used in conjunction with the International Integrated Reporting Framework, which was published by the IIRC in December 2013.

The Framework will be used to accelerate the adoption of Integrated Reporting across the world, where it is currently being trialled in over 25 countries, 16 of which are members of the G20, the group of nations focused on strengthening the global economy.

A4S Reporting Guides and Examples

Connected Reporting – a “how to” guide (2009)

The 2009 report “Connected Reporting – A practical guide with worked examples” is a ‘how to’ guide which provides organizations with a simple approach to making the connection between strategic direction, financial performance and environmental and social considerations, with guidance broken down into the following three key steps:

1. Connecting business strategy and sustainability
The identification of material sustainability issues and description of how each of these impact on the organization’s strategic objectives.

2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and actions taken
The evaluation of action taken to address each material sustainability issue and the identification of KPIs to measure performance.

3. The Connected Performance Report
A balanced assessment of progress against agreed targets and towards intended outcomes.

The guidance includes three worked examples – for a supermarket, a property investment company and a water and wastewater company. These examples highlight different ways that connected reporting can be applied in practice.

Click here to read the report “Connected Reporting – A practical guide with worked examples”

Connected Reporting “how to” online tool (2009)

Alongside the published report (above) we also launched an interactive version of the ‘how to’ guide, which also contains a number of examples of reporting by companies around the world and provides a simple approach to making the connection between strategic direction, financial performance and environmental and social considerations.

Click here to use the Connected Reporting online tool. This guidance builds on the CRF from the 2007 Accounting For Sustainability report and the Connected Reporting consolidated case study from May 2009 (below).

Connected Reporting in practice – a consolidated case study (2009)

Aims and purpose

The purpose of this consolidated case study is to assist organizations who are interested in adopting the Connected Reporting Framework (CRF) (below), by providing insight from practitioners who have used the framework for the first time.

The case study highlights the main benefits arising from using the framework, as well as identifying some of the key challenges that participants have overcome.

Key findings

The participants in this consolidated case study come from a wide range of industry and public sectors, but despite the diversity, the issues, benefits and challenges have tended to be consistent. In particular, participants noted the following.

  • They all had a strong desire to link sustainability reporting to financial and strategic reporting in a connected way.
  • They found that much of the data needed was already available and the additional time needed to collate it, compile and present the Report was relatively short.
  • They highlighted the identification of current cost savings as a key benefit. In addition they found linking reporting to strategy has heightened awareness of sustainability which has led to increased input of sustainability into the decision-making processes, this may also lead to reduced cost.
  • They generally noted that sustainability awareness increased as a result of adopting the CRF, both internally at Board and operational level, and externally with investors and customers.
  • They wished to see continued development on the CRF’s scope of reporting to include other areas of non-financial reporting and a wider concept of sustainability than just environmental matters, as well as enhancing its guidance over the linkage to overall strategy.

Accounting For Sustainability Report: The Connected Reporting Framework (2007)

The 2007 Accounting for Sustainability Report set out the 10 main elements to embed sustainability with case studies, and the Connected Reporting Framework (CRF).

The CRF explains how all areas of organizational performance can be presented in a connected way, reflecting the organization’s strategy and the way it is managed.

Who is using the CRF?

Examples in the UK Public Sector

In the UK, the requirements and guidance for public sector sustainability reporting contained within HM Treasury’s Financial Reporting Manual (FReM) have been derived from the ‘Connected Reporting Framework’.  These requirements were rolled out across all central and local government from 2010.

Financial Reporting Manual 2012-13
Financial Reporting Manual 2011-12

Examples within business

In the private sector, the Connected Reporting Framework is being used, among others, by Aviva, BT, EDF Energy and HSBC. It has also been adopted by HRH’s own Household.  Currently, HSBC are participants of the Integrated Reporting Pilot Programme.

Links to those organizations who have already published reports using the CRF can be found below:

Aviva:

BT:

Cabinet Office:

EDF Energy:

Environment Agency:

Hammerson:

HSBC:

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall:

West Sussex County Council: