Accelerated focus on corporate purpose could be catalyst for change - Black Sun Global

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Accelerated focus on corporate purpose could be catalyst for change

Black Sun’s latest research on FTSE 100 companies reveals that a platform for change is being built.


88% of FTSE100 companies set out their purpose in their annual report and almost all of these have a purpose that goes beyond creating value for shareholders. This figure is up from 33% in 2015, according to Black Sun's 15th annual analysis of FTSE 100 corporate reporting trends. In addition 43% of companies provide some form of link between purpose and strategy, although in most cases, this is merely a brief reference to one of the concepts rather than real insight.

The research report from Black Sun, entitled ‘Rewiring the Ecosystem for Resilience’ – emphasises that to truly drive the change that will be required for the future, companies need to fundamentally rewire their thinking.  

Purpose has been on the corporate agenda for a while, but never has it been more relevant. If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that those companies with a strong sense of purpose have managed to shift their business model far quicker and found it easier to be agile. Acting as a guide for strategy, purpose is now being talked about as one of the most powerful tools to build meaningful relationships with stakeholders and wider society. This will be both a challenge and opportunity for companies.

Encouragingly, nearly all FTSE 100 reports have some form of discussion on stakeholder engagement, with 21% outlining expectations for some of their key stakeholders. However, only 20% of companies are beginning to discuss stakeholders in relation to strategy. This shows that more steps need to be taken to taken towards integrated management in an increasingly stakeholder-centric world.

The key theme of Boardroom agendas in the coming months will not simply be on how to rebuild the economy after the COVID-19 shock, but rather how to build back better and specifically, to rebuild in a way that recognises and addresses stakeholder needs, while helping to create a more sustainable world.

The research reveals that corporates have a good baseline to work from;

  • 64% of Chairmen discuss stakeholder engagement in their leadership statement and 87% of companies use non-financial KPIs in measuring performance.
  • There is increased consideration of sustainability in strategy with 65% of companies evidencing integration of the two and 22% highlighting how non-financial or sustainability issues are factored into decisions on LTIP
  • 60% of companies discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals in their reports, with a third beginning to address impacts

Moving forward, there is a clear opportunity for more authentic and transparent disclosure as companies further embed and explore key themes raised by society, investors, standard setters and other stakeholders.

Our views on the findings

According to Sallie Pilot, Chief Insight and Engagement Officer at Black Sun, “Our research, this year calls for organisations to rethink and rewire their actions to rebuild the trust of their stakeholders and prosper over the long term. Topics that regulatory and legislative initiatives are trying to address – such as aligning purpose, culture, behaviours and strategy – are being severely tested in business today. Now, more than ever, businesses need the trust of their stakeholders and society at large to prosper over the long-term, so reporting in a transparent and credible way is now an obligation as well as an opportunity.”

According to Anne Kirkeby, Lead Corporate Reporting Consultant at Black Sun, “A significant step that we’ve seen is that the sustainability and ESG conversations have changed. Although some companies are yet to show it, I believe many are starting to see a genuine commercial opportunity in aligning to sustainability themes and topics, not just adhering to them for the sake of regulatory compliance. We expect that the COVID-19 crisis will raise this even further up the agenda.”

According to David Christopherson, Group Chief Executive Officer of Black Sun PLC, “This flagship research is the latest in our Horizon Series, a set of reports that provide a holistic view on the changing nature of corporate communications. Even after 15 years of research, we remain passionate in our pursuit of what’s next, and we look forward to taking our clients beyond the next horizon.”


If you would like more information on Black Sun, our research or our work, please contact Naomi Hawkins at [email protected] or on +442039467166

About Black Sun

Black Sun is a global stakeholder communications company with offices in London and Singapore. We are united by a common purpose of making businesses more valued by their stakeholders. We are powered by a unique mix of strategic insight, creative inspiration and technology advantage, and help businesses communicate authentically how they deliver value to their stakeholders. We believe that inspiring strategic communications can spark positive change and drive long-term, sustainable performance.