What challenges are boards facing around the quality of assurance reporting? What risks are being presented by the struggle to adequately detail external and internal controls? Our latest Corporate Governance Review details how the box-ticking approach to assurance is exposing companies to uncertain risks. We provide vital benchmarks on how you can use the UK Corporate Governance Code (the Code) to give purpose back to stakeholders in annual reports.

If the quantity of reporting has increased, has the quality dropped? In an overwhelming time for corporate governance, it’s become apparent that an increase in non-financial reporting requirements has pushed executives to overlook assurance, putting companies, stakeholders, and themselves at risk. Our research reveals a willingness to return to the purpose of annual reports: to give stakeholders a fair, balanced, and understandable company overview.

Sarah Bell outlines the key findings from our Corporate Governance Review, and what this means for businesses.



While there is a strong increase in companies gaining assurance, is this data just superficial? Detailed descriptions of how information is assured are lacking in companies’ annual reports. Our research shows even though stakeholders are looking for authenticity, they’re not being provided comfort with explanatory comments. Is there a challenge with evidencing claims?

Boards that provide insightful information on internal controls and started work early on the now withdrawn legislative reforms, use the Code and its proposed changes as a business advantage rather than just another layer of reporting.

Purpose and culture

While companies are keen to shout about purpose, there’s a struggle with evidencing the authenticity of something so abstract. Is your purpose a strapline or something that actually guides decision-making and strategy?  

When it comes to culture measurement, there was a 122% uplift in the proportion of companies using three or more metrics to measure culture. However, the imbalance between internal and external metrics for measuring culture puts boards at risk of operating in an echo chamber. Are you ensuring you have the right balance of measures?

Business model connectivity

Despite companies presenting a holistic view of their business model with details on prevention and impacts of risks, there’s a question as to whether these and their impact on viability are updated year on year. 20% of companies made no changes to their viability statements, which could cause issues for stakeholders. Are your risks genuinely the same or are you choosing to attribute efficiency? 


Our research shows that ESG plays a lead role in all areas of business strategy. While ‘E’ continues to be the main focus, there’s a steady increase from last year in boards connecting social issues to risks.

However, there’s concern about the lack of detail on the person or group responsible for sustainability efforts: so the governance of it, and accountability, is crucial for the success of a business strategy. Is it clear who is ultimately accountable for sustainability within your organisation?



For more insight and guidance, get in touch with Sarah Bell.