A family of transparency
A 'Core+More' approach to Fonterra's 2021 reporting suite featured seven complementary documents ensuring comprehensive disclosure for all stakeholder groups. And throughout all, the company's unique family ethos remained ever-present.
Fonterra’s annual reporting for 2021 took a huge leap forward from previous years, reflecting the recent major strategic reset by the Co-operative. While in messaging and stylistic terms this year’s reports were to be a clear evolution of our 2020 solution, the content, comprehensiveness, disclosure levels and structure required, in contrast, a revolution.
This year took a significant further step along the road to more integrated reporting. With this, the increasing disclosure of data and greater maturity along Fonterra’s sustainability journey (particularly in regards to our natural environment) and the communication risk of ‘too much information’ getting in the way of engagement and concise understanding, raised some flags for us all. Like many corporates, Fonterra had already been producing a separate Sustainability Report, but even with that, the challenge suggested that more granular reporting was probably necessary.
This, in turn, raised the challenge of what information should be included in the main ‘annual report’ and what could be safely relegated to the supplementary documents. And how many supplementary documents were actually necessary.
Beyond that challenge the brief required two further key objectives:
- clear tracking of progress, and reinforcement, of the new strategy; and
- further development of the presentation of board and management’s holistic view of the business across multiple stakeholder groups.
While not a direct component of the reporting suite, Fonterra’s new capital structure was a very important parallel workstream, which both influenced messaging and cross referencing in the reports, and needed to be designed and produced in the same timeframe, adding further complexity to the timeline and production management process.
Structurally, we recommended a ‘Core+More’ approach, with an integrated report as the centrepiece. This would be the ‘Core’, telling the whole story in a engaging, concise, storytellling, holistic and connected way. Six ‘More’ reports would provide high disclosure/evidence in specialist areas for more specialist audiences, while not obscuring the bigger narrative as they would if incorporated into one mammoth document. These covered financials, sustainability, corporate governance, statutory information, business performance and milk price.
The biggest challenge in adopting this granular structure was electing what was really Core and what could be relegated to More, particularly as some headline information, ideal for Core, could actually be clearer if accompanied by some of the the colour provided by More.
The Core integrated report took a human-centric, warm, storytelling approach which clearly brought the strategy and its progress to rich and meaningful life, with carefully layered messaging that helped the skim reader and enticed them to read more deeply.
The sequencing and structure of Core tracked the milk journey from farm, through off-farm activities and through to products and customers. On the way, the report traversed all the identified material issues that impacted multiple stakeholder groups, ensuring a connected and holistic total picture of Fonterra’s business.
Creatively, we confidently followed on from last year’s theme of Good Together and building on the successes established by Fonterra’s national Good Together generational campaign. This is represented through the concept that Fonterra is an integrated family, sharing the same values and vision.
At face value, we have a suite of framed covers that each feature at least two ‘family members’ sharing a connection. That imagery then continues to tell the story as one opens each document. That graphic framing theme continues to be featured throughout the suite of documents, occasionally becoming more obvious as seen in the Annual Review’s contents page where we literally represent a wall of framed family pictures featuring farmers, consumers and staff.
Although the content is laid out in a structured manner, the words and imagery seem to play together, interacting like a tightly-knit family, fully dependent on each other. These playful layouts are controlled and softened using a tinted brand colour palette.
Feedback from shareholders has been very positive, particularly around the depoth and breadth of information shared, especially as the proposed changes to the Co-operative’s capital structure required a thorough understanding of the company’s prospects. As for Fonterra themselves, they expressed their admiration for Insight’s ability to deliver a high volume of work with over 400 pages across 10 books, including the capital structure documents, over a four month period.