The world has changed a great deal over the last twelve months. Covid-19 impacted everyone’s lives in a way nobody could have imagined at the end of 2019. Lockdowns made us work from home and moved almost all of our human interaction online, even for the most digitally resistant among us.
The pandemic year was a catalyst for change in how companies communicate and how they interact with their stakeholders. Even before dealing with the impact of the pandemic upon trading, corporate reporting professionals were busy adjusting to new regulations and guidance that will change how their companies communicate. Perhaps the most significant of these are s172 of the Companies Act and its impact upon how directors carry out their duties and the Corporate Governance Code 2018 which encourages companies to talk more about the culture of their business and their role in society.
The environmental agenda remains a major issue that continues to be important to institutional investors, regulators and governments alike. In addition, climate change is, of course, a subject of considerable importance to a much broader audience. A company’s stated position and track record on climate change issues will be scrutinised on social media and may even fuel employee activism if performance is perceived to be negative.
Retail investors are becoming increasingly vocal too. The high-profile Reddit/ GameStop saga grabbed headlines in January and, while the vast majority of companies are unlikely to find themselves in such an extreme situation, the story highlights the influence of digital and social media in shaping stakeholder attitudes and forming opinions. These increasing demands for accountability underline the need for companies to have a stronger and more consistent voice online. Where once reporting content was largely overlooked by many nonfinancial stakeholders, now they’re paying attention and are willing to make their opinions known online. In addition, how businesses and brands behave also matters to consumers.
A global consumer trends study by IBM in January 2020 found that a third of consumers reported that they prioritise brands that are sustainable, transparent and aligned with their core values – further emphasising the growing value and importance of a strong corporate brand.
As the UK slowly returns to a new kind of normal, companies are adjusting to the post-pandemic world. Looking ahead, the role of the corporate brand has changed forever as more companies now recognise the importance of building trust with all stakeholders.