Disclosure and pictures features of best annual reports

This year's crop of the best annual reports are strong on disclosure, demonstrating performance against results and governance and they use lots of pictures to retain readers' interest.

They are also large documents. The best - from Wellington City Council - is a monster at 204 pages, including 90 pages of financials and notes to the accounts.

The judges of the Institute of Chartered Accountants annual reports awards said that the overall quality of entrants has improved markedly compared to previous years. The number of entries was also up "significantly" although the Institute would not disclose actual numbers.

In the Wellington City Council report there are 62 pictures, nine of them full page plus the cover shot, all full colour except for fifteen small black and whites of the Mayor and councilors grouped together on page 174 of the report.

The designers have pulled out every presentational trick available. Each of the eleven sections is on different coloured paper. There's 48 bar and pie charts plus graphs and a numerous other tables of information and pull quotes.

The judges said Wellington City Council's report comprehensively covered all aspects of the council's operations and did so with verve and style. "It has set a new benchmark for local authority annual reporting."

The NZ Refining Company won the best large corporate category.

The cover shot of a car being filled with petrol is strong and well executed but contrasts with the rather more casual depiction of the company's people inside the report.

One picture has the ten board members in a garden, with only Chairman Ian Farrant in a suit and tie. Of the others four are wearing ties, but only two are wearing jackets. It's a working board. One has a pen in the top pocket of his shirt; another has the rim of his T shirt visible under his open necked business shirt. There's just one woman.

The management team of seven (again only one woman) are seen wearing their company sports shirts paddling at the beach, trousers rolled up, but looking very determined and team like. Later each team member gets profiled under their section of the business plan with reportage on their critical success factors.

The highlight of the 92 page report is a six page fold out entitled Keeping New Zealand Fuelled. The map of the world shows where the crude oil comes from - 51% from the Middle East, 6% from New Zealand. And where it goes - 2% to export, and 52% down the RAP, the Refinery to Auckland pipeline. It's 170 kms of underground pipeline capable of taking up to 400 000 litres per hour of finished product from the refinery to Auckland.

The judges said the NZRC annual report was "easy to read using a direct, honest communication style. Judges were impressed by IFRS disclosures of some complex technical areas including IFRS 7. Judges also noted that the company had made extensive disclosures of their business plan providing information for the next 5 years."

With 35 pictures,(plus the foldout) the pictures to pages ratio (excluding financials) is just 0.7 in line with the Wellington City's report but only half of that by the Mid Central DHB, the winner of the government organisation category.

This report is 80 pages with 73 pictures. Excluding the financials that's 1.5 pictures per page, including six double page spreads and six other full page spreads.

One interesting feature was the depiction of the board and management as committed to health. "Outside their board duties, health is a way of life" the commentary said, and the eleven board members are shown with a piece of equipment from their favorite recreation.

There's a gardener, a golfer, a tramper, a cyclist, and an eeler among others. The same device is used for the five person management team. They number a surfer, a golfer, a dog walker, a fisher and a fitness enthusiast.

The centre spread of the report is a breakdown of where the money goes. The $435 million of total funding is broken into 15 headings with a brief simple description.

A second heading, And who gets it, breaks the same $435m down by payments to pharmacies, rest homes, other DHBs and the like. It's a quick snapshot without elaborate explanation or detail.

The judges said the report "exemplifies that integrated "story" - vision, priorities, physical and financial achievement as one integrated report. The report gives a coherent account of the organisation's performance across a diverse range of health activities."

The most unusual feature of the Marlborough Lines' annual report is that it incorporates a separate 32 page full colour calendar with a pre punched hole for hanging on the wall.

The report won the best small or mid sized corporate category.

There are 23 pictures in the report including the cover. The seven man executive team is depicted on a hill side and the shot spreads across two pages. Six of the seven are in dark suits; six of the seven (but not the same six) are in white shirts. It's the same with board - six males, six in dark suits, and five in white shirts.

The performance report is a one page report of achievements against targets for the year. It's buried close to the back on page 59, but the discussion of the information behind the financial numbers is useful. The judges said the report "included good disclosure of non-financial and statistical information, well supported by appropriate background information."

Vodafone shared the award for best accountability reporting by a corporate with fishing company Sanford. Its corporate responsibility document is in sharp contrast to the other annual reports honoured this year. It's A5, has no pictures, although some graphical devices, and is printed on paper certified as sourced from environmentally sustainable forests and "using mineral oil free soy based vegetable inks."

The judges said it was "comprehensive with clear reporting against targets and clear forecasting. It is also easily accessible due to its size, yet full of interesting and relevant information. A credible stand-alone corporate responsibility report."