Why Weir won Best Annual Report for a FTSE 250 organisation
For Weir Group’s head of communications and public affairs Raymond Buchanan, value creation was at the heart of its annual report
For any listed company the number one criterion has traditionally been value creation. Engineering solutions company Weir put this at the heart of its 2019 annual report, We are Weir, revealing it isn’t just a financial focus, but an actual embodiment of the company’s culture. The outcome was so effective it won the CorpComms Awards 2020 category for Best Annual Report for a FTSE 250 organisation.
Raymond Buchanan, head of communications and public affairs at Weir Group, explains: ‘We didn’t want a standard annual report. We wanted readers to get a real sense of our business and culture.’
This was the reason that there was such a big focus on the We are Weir strategic framework within the report. ‘It’s a great tool for understanding how we think about the business,’ notes Buchanan. ‘On one page it sets our vision, mission, business model, strategic priorities and values. In essence, we wanted the annual report to resemble the conversation we would have with investors or other stakeholders if they came to see us in person.’
In other words, the pages were designed to talk.
He adds: ‘That includes how we think about value creation. We have never been of the view that companies operate in isolation. If you think about our founders back in 1871, James and George Weir were both engineers who benefited from excellent training at other companies before founding their own business.
‘They knew that their success depended on others and that is why they were the first to open an apprenticeship school in Scotland. That ethos, of replenishing the skills and resources that sustain your business, remains strong.
‘Yes, we have a robust business model, but we also have a culture that really values our employees, strives to delight our customers, works in partnership with our suppliers and makes a difference to our communities from direct employment to encouraging more women to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers, whether with Weir or not.’
At the heart of the value creation message in the report was the intention to help Weir investors and other stakeholders understand some of the big changes that had occurred in the group. ‘This included our largest ever acquisition and our decision to sell our Flow Control division,’ highlights Buchanan. ‘These were some of the biggest events in Weir’s near 150-year history and so it was important we were clear about how these changes helped advance our strategy.’
The judges felt the report gave a good snapshot of the business and paid strong attention to making values impactful. ‘We simply told our story and I think our values are implicit in that,’ states Buchanan. ‘There are lots of great examples from our operations across the world of our people living our values. The most prominent is safety where we continue to make good progress towards becoming a zero-harm workplace.
‘To get there we need colleagues to look after themselves and each other and I think the fact we are now one of the safest manufacturing companies in the world is testament to how strong that culture of looking out for each other is.’
The biggest challenge was avoiding following the standard annual report template. ‘I think that was crucial to the success of the report and it will certainly inform how we think about reporting in the future,’ Buchanan admits. ‘It is a very important [communications tool]. Our annual report is downloaded thousands of times every year by a variety of different stakeholders. Obviously, it has a regulatory role, but it is also the story of the business year after year and for Weir, with a heritage that goes back to the Victorian era – it is great to have that record for future generations to refer to.’
Given the outstanding success of this report, how will Buchanan ensure the bar is kept high for future reports? ‘The annual report should reflect the business and at our heart, I think, we have a really strong foundation, based on our people, which means we should continue to have great stories to tell.’