EuroZone Blue Chips increase volume of D&I Communication – with a Gender focus

The 50 largest corporations in the EuroZone have further increased the communication of their D&I policies and practices. This finding of the latest analysis of Corporate Reporting is particularly true for CSR reports – and for gender. An over of research results provide a crisp and clear picture.

The Top 50 companies in the EuroZone are communicating their D&I policies and practices more extensively and in a more detailed way. This is the overall result of the most current empirical analysis of all Annual Reports of the companies included in the EuroStoxx50® index. In addition, the research analysed all CSR reports that were published by these fifty corporations in the EuroZone. The study is the fifth bi-annual analysis of its kind (including one lead study in Germany), initiated, designed and performed by European Diversity Research & Consulting.

Unprecedented Prevalence of D&I in Corporate Communication

There can be no more doubt that D&I is a firm default element of Corporate reality: 49 of 50 Annual Reports and all 41 CSR reports published by the EuroStoxx®50 companies make specific reference to Diversity, Inclusion or other equality related policies or practices. Beyond the mere mentioning, the amount of information has increased, compared to previous analysis: Roughly half of the sample (23) write one page or more about Diversity in their Annual Reports, and more than half of the CSR reports contain two or more pages (which only 20 percent of Annual Reports do). The average coverage in CSR reports (3.1 pages per report) is more than double of the average in Annual Reports (1.4 pages per report). By industry and region, the ITC sector and France boast the largest volumes in Annual Reports, where the Italy/Spain and the Energy sector are at the lower end of the spectrum. On the other hand, the energy sector achieves a top score with almost 6 pages on average in CSR reports.

Increasing breadth but decreasing depth of D&I information

Like never before, 50% of the Top50 sample explicitly mention five or more Diversity dimensions in their Annual Reports and slightly higher percentage does so in their CSR reports. Moreover, more than a quarter communicates an even deeper understanding of Diversity, including the six original core dimensions plus work/life balance. The same pattern was found among Europe’s 50 largest companies (including British and Swiss firms).

Gender continues to be the far most frequently covered topic (44 Annual reports talks this aspect, about in the context, 27 about internationality and 25 about age. 23 Annual reports include other, more business-related dimensions of diversity, including issues such as digitalisation, experiences or backgrounds. Otherwise, the so-called discrimination hierarchy continues to show up with disability and ethnicity on middle ranks and LGBT or religion last. The most inclusive sub-samples are the CSR reports from Italy & Spain and from Germany, as well as Annual Reports from France.

Compared to four years ago, companies have diversified their terminology for Diversity in Annual and CSR Reports: D&I is no longer the predominant paradigm. Instead, the analysis found a balance between D&I, Diversity as a stand-alone term and Diversity combined with other paradigms. The largest group of companies, however, present Diversity in the context of general HR policies and strategies. “The changing communication shows that companies insist that Diversity is not a means to an end, but a value-creation process that is connected to other topics,” Diversity expert, Michael Stuber, comments.

More concrete activities and tangible results published

The D&I journey of many years is finally reflected in the nature of the information included in Corporate Communication. While statements about the commitment to D&I have remained stable over the years, the number of companies describing some of their programmes has gone up as has the amount of information they share. 30 Annual Reports contain a total of 164 programmes and 36 CSR reports talk about 230 initiatives. Both numbers are much higher than the findings for the Stoxx®50Europe peer group. Within the EuroStoxx®50, large differences across industries and regions were found: In Annual Reports, the Pharma and ITC sectors describe 8 or 9 initiatives on average respectively, the French sub-sample 7. In CSR Reports, the German reach the high-score of 7 along with – again – the ITC industry.

In both types of reports, development and topic-specific programmes are the most frequently mentioned ones. D&I events are the third most commonly described activity whereas networks and governance-related formats are less often used as practical examples for D&I. Education & training has been introduced as a new category as almost ten percent of reports contain this type of practice.

Qualitative or quantitative outcomes of D&I work

The number of Annual reports that specifically mention results or achievements of their D&I work has increased slightly, compared to the previous analysis, but remains on a low level. This category includes certificates or awards as well as internal metrics around increased engagement or innovation.

Due to the political framework, quantitative metrics are more and more often included in Annual Reports, where gender data for the top levels have become quite a common information. (37 of 49 reports talk about board diversity). Workforce diversity data is more prevalent in CSR reports (34 of 41 reports) than in Annual Reports. 27 of these reports include diversity data beyond gender. “Corporation are telling politics that for them, Diversity is more than just gender”, Diversity researcher, Michael Stuber, comments this finding. He had started the study series more than ten years ago.

Trend in Corporate D&I Communication

Comparing the specific findings of the EuroZone analysis with the previous study (four years earlier) and considering results from the Stoxx®50 Europe sample over time as well, a few messages are consistent and strong:

-        While in the early years, the communication focus shifted from CSR to Annual Report, D&I content is now becoming also prevalent – and extensive – in CSR reports (which does not happen at the expense of investor communication)

  • In both types of reports, the volume, breadth and depth of information about D&I is increasing, while gender continues to be by far the dominating theme
  • Both terminologies and practices show that D&I is more and more closely connected with other corporate and HR programmes and processes

Relevance and Details of the Research

Corporate Reporting forms a key element in corporate communication as it relates to business topics that are considered strategic priorities. In 2008, when the first systematic analysis was carried out (analysing reports for the year 2007), including Diversity in investor communication (i.e. Annual Reports) or Public Relations (CSR or similar reports) was an important indicator for how serious the topic was tackled. In the following years, it increasingly became a way to identify trends in D&I, mainly through the breadth, nature and depth of the information communicated. None of these data, however, provide a full picture of what companies are doing in the D&I area as some, many or most activities will not be included in the reports analysed. However, the research provides empirical data that is consistent over time (except that the composition of the Stoxx® indices changes each quarter and hence differs across the reports. Nevertheless, the fact that the 50 largest companies (in Europe or the Eurozone) are analysed, remains the same.

  • The 50 Annual Reports for 2015, analysed in 2016/17 contained a total of 13,144 pages, 70 of which talked about Diversity.
  • The 41 CSR Reports for 2015 (including the integrated ones) contained a total of 5,942 pages,125 of which talked about Diversity.

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(*) Some countries were combined to country clusters to consolidate data; Finland was included with BeNeLux for purely practical reasons

(**) The industry sectors were combined and consolidated into six combined sectors to enable easier comparisons