The overall winners

Tribute to the runner-up
Michel Gerber,
Michel Gerber, Head of Investor Relations & Corporate Communications VAT Group AG

Clariant as the runner-up is not an unknown company as it has repeatedly stimulated lively discussion in the final jury since 2013. Since then Clariant has appeared each year in the final round of the finest annual reports as a result of the consistently high quality both for Value Reporting and for Design. This year Clariant has made the podium once again after 2013 and 2016 and although it has not scaled the summit as was the case last year, it has still achieved a very good 2nd place. Our sincere congratulations on that achievement!

One year ago, the victor’s eulogy was given here by Bernhard Schweizer as a true fan and this year too when the top rankings came to be awarded, there was little discussion as to whether Clariant should be included. The outstanding placings once again in the Value Reporting and Design categories laid a strong foundation.

In addition to the conventional plus points such as outstanding typography, the successful use of graphics and the more or less complete nature of the information provided in the Value Reporting section, there was a further change this year.

One small but important detail in this year’s report might almost be overlooked at first glance. On the title page for the first time we do not read 2016 Annual Report, but the ambitious term “Integrated Report 2016”.

The aim of this new orientation is to show the reader how the business intends to create added value in the three dimensions of Performance, People and Planet. These three areas are explained by Clariant through the whole report and in particular by a folding chart. “Performance, People, Planet” are defined here as the input or resources used. These are converted by the “Clariant Vision, Mission and Corporate Values” into a positive “Output” for clients, shareholders, personnel and the environment. After a short time needed for familiarisation the three page chart becomes readily understandable and by means of a manageable number of key data items gives the reader an insight into the way Clariant sees itself in terms of an integrated approach and how it wishes to be measured in future.

This step taken by Clariant will be followed in future by many other companies and in a few years time - when comparative numbers are available for new key figures – we will see whether this integrated reporting looks good, not just in a report but also creates demonstrable added value in the overall performance and assessment of an enterprise.

The step towards Integrated Reporting also hastens a trend which cannot be seen as entirely positive. With 244 pages, the Clariant Annual Report – remember, this is a non-financial company – like almost all the finalists, can be described in colloquial parlance as “profuse”. As in real life, where corpulence seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent, a trend is also under way among annual reports, which calls for some critical comment. In the case of Clariant, this is further accentuated by a “Home Story” running for more than 30 pages about an employee. On average the twelve finalists had a length of a good 230 pages and just one annual report managed to get by with a concise 140 pages.

Of course, you might object that this inflation of page numbers is due to readers’ increasing demand for information and that the criteria laid down by the regulators, which become more stringent with each passing year, are also to blame. That is no doubt correct, and looking at the corporate governance or compensation report sections, you will find that because of the amount of information needed a substantial volume is hard to avoid; that certainly also holds good for the financial section.

But it is also a fact that it seems generally difficult to put things concisely without losing substance in the text. Concentration on essentials, readily understandable formulations and the bold omission of things which can be taken for granted should be the areas in which the makers of annual and integrated reports need to invest. The reader will be grateful.

The high technical quality is indisputable in the case of the Clariant Integrated Report and the fact that overall it was not enough to achieve first place in the ranking again after 2016 should not discourage the people in charge of the report from continuing on the path they have chosen.

We congratulate Clariant and the whole team which has achieved outstanding performance once again most sincerely on reaching the winners podium and taking second place overall in the Swiss Annual Reports rating for 2017.