Or is it just frozen because of the publication?

The amount of time spent on creating a corporate report is a difficult question to answer since the effort of producing a big report includes a lot of different tasks of different magnitude. Further a lot of people are engaged to varying extents, at different times. The number of amends to the content for example, can be very extensive and means a lot of small contributions at many different times during the process. The weighted average time of producing the content among the respondents was 3.2 months. The same measure for the time from start to publishing was 4.9 months. But the variation is extensive, according to our survey Words & Numbers.

In the question behind this section of our survey the respondents were asked to indicate in what month the production of the content of the report begins and in what month it is completed. About 10 percent of the respondents produce the content between four to six months before the end of the fiscal year. The vast majority, about 40 percent of respondents, start content production during the second month before year end. 20 percent each start one or three months before year end.

Five percent of the respondents have chosen “Do not” as the option for “Content complete”, which might be a mistake, but at the same time gives a philosophical perspective to this question: is the content actually ever completed, or is it just frozen because of the publication?

Being a collaborative solution for designed documents, we understand that the need for being able to produce content in the ultimate layout or design of the report adds a lot of value to the people involved.

This is illustrated in the graph below which shows the months when the respondents start working in the designed document and when the content is considered to be completed. It’s clear that these two steps overlap each other in the majority of cases. About 70 percent of the respondents start working in the designed report before the content is complete. Half of the companies start one to two months before and 20 percent start working in the design between three and six months before the content is completed. The remaining 30 percent start either in the same month or in the month after. 
graph content financial report months

Involving consultants

Since producing complex, extensive and designed documents demands a lot of different competencies most companies use external resources for some of the tasks included. Since our previous survey in 2018, the share of companies using consultants has increased to 77 per cent compared to 71 in 2018. The increase has happened across all different tasks but most significantly within “Text production” and “Production management”, both important and time consuming parts of the process. One explanation for the increased usage of external resources may be the exploding stakeholder interest in sustainability information. This puts the sustainability report more in focus of the top management and therefore also easier to get budget allocated to.

When the decision to engage consultants is made, seems to vary a lot among the respondents, However, two thirds of the decisions are made during three months: five months after year end or, four or three months before next year’s closing.

The time for following up last year’s work is very evenly spread out throughout the year which is a little bit difficult to interpret. There might be some miscomprehension regarding the question that led to this result.

Reviewing the report

The report is reviewed by the board, the management and the auditors most intensely during the month of publishing, completely in line with what can be expected. Three months after the end of the financial year is both the most intensive month for reviewing and for publishing.
When is the report reviewed by the board, the management and the auditors?
diagram the process of content annual report
Only a few percentages of the responses are “Do not” meaning that the board of directors or the auditors in a few cases do not review the sustainability information before it’s published. Since about ten percent of the responding companies only report this information voluntarily it is an expected outcome. No “Do not” response options when it comes to reviewing were chosen regarding the management.

How many times these important reviewers read the reports is also asked in the survey and compared to the survey performed in 2018 the results show increased reviewing of the information. We measure this by asking how many times the different reviewers are involved.

How many times is the report reviewed before publishing?
ctrlprint survey diagram the process content financial report
The share of responses that show that the report is reviewed more than once has increased quite significantly, especially for management where 38 percent of the respondents have answered that the management reviewed more than once. In the last survey the share was 28 percent, so the increase is by more than a third. The share of answers for the board of directors reviewing multiple times has increased by half.

Nothing in these results is specifically asked about differences regarding reviewing the NFRD information and voluntary information. This may be an interesting topic to investigate further in coming surveys.

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