It’s everyone’s favourite time of year: annual reporting season! It may be less festive than the traditional holidays, but what it lacks in mistletoe, it makes up for in mission statements.

If it seems like your organisation’s annual report kick-off happens earlier every year, you might be right. After all, the integrated annual report is so much more than a collection of financial statements; it’s your company’s chance to share its story with investors and other stakeholders. Given the importance of getting the narrative right, it’s no wonder that the process of creating the year’s report often begins months before the year is over.

From communication to compliance: Why annual reports matter

The integrated annual report is a powerful communication tool in any corporate toolbox: an opportunity to share updates on your strategic direction, information about your business developments and details of the value you created during the year. Striking the perfect balance between transparency and readability is worth the hard work – not least because a good report can help with everything from building investor trust to growing employee engagement.

Of course, annual reporting is also a key piece of the compliance puzzle. As European sustainability reporting requirements intensify – CSRD, anyone? – those responsible for producing corporate reports are facing new challenges, like how to tick all the relevant ESRS boxes while still presenting a compelling story about progress and purpose. Adjusting to new requirements takes time – which is why many companies aim to avoid last-minute panic by producing a first draft of their integrated report in time for the December holidays.

Top tips for a stress-free reporting season

Getting ahead sounds great, but it’s certainly not easy. Planning, gathering input, drafting, reviewing, collating feedback, designing, proofreading, and more reviewing … Not all these steps need to happen before the new year, but integrated reporting can still be a high-intensity process – especially as the boundaries between communication and compliance become increasingly blurred.

With all this in mind, here are some tips to help make your annual reporting season the most wonderful time of the year.

  1. Prepare for the regulation revolution

Triple-check your CSRD eligibility status. Work out exactly what information you’re required to disclose. And start collecting the data you need in good time – or risk a non-compliance nightmare!

  1. Keep everyone on the same page

If you’re a sustainability or communications professional, you might be up to date on double materiality, value creation and other key reporting concepts – but not all your colleagues will be. Communicate well with your leadership teams and other integrated reporting stakeholders so they know what’s expected from them and when (especially if you plan to use real-time interviews to gather insights).

  1. Don’t forget to zoom out

Transparent reporting is about small yet important details, but raw data is just part of the bigger picture. Consider the overall message or theme of your report, identify potential case studies on internal or external initiatives and think carefully about how to balance top-notch storytelling with eye-catching visuals – and bring your story to life.