Part 1: Analysis of Changes in Non-Financial Data Presentation by Sydney Airport by Comparison of the Annual Reports over Two Years.
Part 2: Explanation of the Reasons for Disclosing Materiality Assessment related to Covid-19 by the Companies
Part 3: Information Required by the Stakeholders for Ensuring Effective Response of Companies in Relation to Global Pandemic of Covid-19.
Part 4: Analysis of Companies Requiring More Social as Compared to Environmental Aspect of their Non-Financial Data
Part 5: Lessons for the Accounting Profession from the Selected Corporate Disclosures.
Conclusion and Recommendation.
Reason for the Report
Covid-19, the global pandemic has had a huge impact on the global economy and has also created various issues for different organisations as well as their stakeholders, which is leading to a loss for those organisations. In this context, the major business companies are facing the problem of providing relevant financial and non-financial information to the stakeholders forcommunicating significant risks associated with the business operations. As such, this report has been mainly developed to examine the type of information that should be provided to the public by the business companies to provide Covid-19 related information to the stakeholders.
Purpose and Objectives
The purpose of this report is to provide a detailed analysis on the Covid-19 situation and the ways in which it is affecting the public disclosures of an ASX listed company that is the Sydney Airport. It is an Australian publicly listed stapled organisation, which consists of different entities, namely, Sydney Airport Limited and Sydney Airport Trust 1 (SAT1).In this context, its major objective is to examine the Covid-19 related disclosures of the Sydney Airport along with it the proper revelations on its corporate websites. This includes assessment of its annual reports, sustainability and integrated reports as well as any other media releases related with Covid-19 disclosures.
Review of Previous Work Research in Relation to the Project
The aviation industry is severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. There are different airlines which have faced huge losses and have completely stooped functioning. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the major disease outbreak was in 2003, with SARS, which led to an increase in air traffic (Suau-Sanchez et al., 2020). Covid-19 can be said to have surpasses these levels, and as such there exists a high need for the business companies to incorporate and communicate the risks related with such pandemics.
Methods of Investigation/Approach
The report adopts the use of a qualitative methodology for addressing the various requirements of the report. This involves the use of various theories in relation to thepresentation of non-financial data, ethical dilemmas and providing detailed information to the stakeholders.
Scope and limitations
The report covers the changes in the reporting of non-financial data by the companies for addressing the transparency and integrity requirements of the stakeholders. It does not cover the major changes that the companies are required to adopt in their financial reporting in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Outline of the structure of report
The report initially examines the significant changes in terms of presenting the non-financial data by the company selectedthrough undertaking a comparison of the annual reports over the past two years. This is followed by disclosing the materiality and risk assessment that the company need to integrate in relation to Covid-19 disclosures. Also, it conducts an evaluation of determining the type of information that the stakeholders required for assessing the type of response for addressing the risks related to the pandemic.
There is a large impact of the recent pandemic of Covid-19 on the economy across the world that is causing significant disruptions for the Australian businesses.In this context, there has been major impact on the aviation sector of the Covide-19 pandemic with the major disruptions in the fleets, staff cuts and sluggish demand. Sydney Airport is the oldest and busiest airport in the world, with its headquarters in New South Wales, Australia. There are more than 35 airlines, which fly in and out of Sydney Airport, to various significant destinations globally (Syndey Airport: Overview, 2020). There have been large changes adopted by the aviation industry that Sydney Airport also needs to compile adequately for addressing the global pandemic of Covid-19. There is requirement of implementing new health and safety requirements for ensuring safe air travel and preventing any type of contamination (International Finance Corporation (IFC), 2020).
The comparison between the interim financial reports of the airport for the financial years 2019-2020 depicts that there has been decrease in the income in the year 2020 due to the impact of the global pandemic. As analyzed from its interim financial year report, it can be stated that the Group has delivered a strong financial performance in the year 2020 but the spread of Covid-19 after that has negatively impacted the performance of the aviation industry (Sydney’s Report: Half Year Results 2020, 2020). The reduction in the passenger traffic both at international and domestic level leads to reducing the traffic by about 58% in the first half of 2020 as compared to the previous financial year of 2019. The EBITDA has decreased by about 35.4% with revenue declining by 35.9% in comparison to the previous financial year. Therefore, it can be said the Group is currently facing large financial risk owing to the decline in the passenger traffic that could have a negative impact on its financial performance in the future (SYD: ASX Release, 2020).
The Group also discloses information on the strategies it is planning to implement for addressing the materiality financial risks identified. It is emphasizing in taking actions for strengthening its balance sheet for meeting the challenges of Covid-19. The measures that the interim financial report of the Group 2020 has disclosed for addressing the uncertainty in the environment are stated as follows:
In addition to this, the interim results of the year 2020 has also identified the key business risks related with the pandemic of Covid-19 that has been explained by developing a separate appendix section lacking in the interim reports of the prior comparative period. The appendix discloses non-financial data in relation to the materialistic risks that the airport is facing due to the global pandemic of covid-19. It includes pandemic risks, capital risk, airline free risk, financing covenants, reliance on third parties, small number of customers and regulatory risks. The key measures adopted by the airport for addressing the risks have also been explained in detail within the appendix section of the interim financial report of 2020 (SYD: Annual General Meeting 2020, 2020).
The disclosure of the materiality risks in relation to the occurrence of global pandemic of Covid-19 is essential for the purpose of assisting the stakeholders to make informed decisions and protecting their interest and the welfare. The same has been advocated by the stakeholder theory as per which the business corporation needs to develop relationships with the stakeholders by creating value for them (O'Riordan, 2017). The stakeholders are regarded as the individuals or groups having a direct or indirect association with the activities of a business corporation. As per the theory, all stakeholders have the right to be treated fairly by an organization and as such it is necessary for the management to improve transparency and integrity in the communication of the financial and non-financial information for achieving their trusts. The major role of the management is to continually develop and disclose the strategies adopted for improving the business performance (Bellucci and Manetti, 2018). In the context of the stakeholder theory, it can be analyzed that the role of the management is very critical in disseminating important information to the stakeholders so that they can analyze accurately the business performance and consequently take their decisions.
The pandemic of Covid-19 has increased the uncertainty present within the capital market and therefore detailed information in relation to the material impact on the business will provide large assistance to the stakeholders in making informed decisions. The information regarding the major materiality risks that the business is facing and the measures that are taken by businesses for minimizing their effect need to be disclosed in detail. In the context of the theory, it can be said that Sydney Airport discloses adequate information for all its stakeholders. The impact on the financial performance of the airport and the strategies taken for addressing the financial risk arising due to Covid-19 impact has been depicted within its interim financial results of the year 2020 (SYD: Annual General Meeting 2020, 2020).
In addition to this, the legitimacy theory also provides an adequate explanation regarding the need for the business companies to provide a disclosure regarding the materiality assessment and risks in context of Covid-19. The theory has argued that it is necessary for the business companies to conduct their operations as per the societal norms and regulations. The support of the society and the communities at large is essential for the business organizations to obtain the necessary support and resources to continue their operations (Zyznarska-Dworczak, 2018). Therefore, in the context of the theory it can be said that public disclosures provided by the business entities such as annual reports, sustainability report and integrated reports enhances the transparency and communication in their operational activities. The community expectations are not static and they tend to vary with the changes in the business environment. In this context, there is high need for the business organizations to adopt the changes in the ways in which the financial or non-financial information is communicated to the stakeholders for meeting their trust and expectations. As such, it can be said that the adoption of the changes in the public disclosures is required by the business entities for communicating adequate information to the stakeholders in current times of economic uncertainty owing to Covod-19. The disclosures regarding the materiality assessment and the social and environmental risks faced by the businesses during the time of pandemic is required to achieve a legitimate position within the society (Mendy, 2020).
The quality of the public disclosures and governance practices of the companies are gaining high prominence during the crisis time of Covid-19 to maintain the trust of their various stakeholders. The continued support of the stakeholders is essential for gaining critical resources and continuing the long-term growth and development of the business corporations (Mendy, 2020). In this context, it is required that the business companies need to adequate communicate on the impact of Covid-19 on the business performance mainly in terms of liquidity, continuity of business, financial position, internal control and the risks. The adequate disclosure of the information by the corporate leaders is essential to maintain the trust of investors, supplies, employees, government and other stakeholders on the future business growth and performance.
This is essential for the business companies to provide the stakeholders with open and transparent information. It is important to provide continually updates on the customer health and well-being for the businesses that has high interactions with the customers. The precautions that are taken by the business firms for ensuring the customer safety need to be provided for achieving their trust (Bumb and Carlson, 2020). It also needs to provide information regarding the measures that are taken by the companies for protecting the employee welfare. The opportunities provided to the employees for reducing their exposure risk to these health emergency needs to be disclosed in a proper manner such as working from remote location. It is also required to provide continuous updates to the employees regarding the potential impacts of the present health emergency on the business operations. The governance strategies adopted by the companies for addressing the various types of risks related with the pandemic should also need to be disclosed within their public disclosures. It involves proper discloses regarding the materiality risks faced by the businesses due to pandemic and the remedial strategies that have been planned to be implemented for addressing them. The adequate information regarding the internal controls adopted and the quality audits performed for addressing the potential constraints need to be communicated to the stakeholders (Mcmullan and Smith, 2020). The key operational changes that are adopted by the company during the time of crisis and their impact on the financial performance should be disclosed in a proper manner. The compliance with the government policies and rules imposed during the time of health pandemic by the companies should also be updated regularly on their websites and other public disclosures.
Thus, it can be said that the development and adoption of a clear stakeholder communication strategy is essential to ensure that all participants are involved to maintain their trust within the business operations. The adequate crisis communication and stakeholder engagement is critical for the companies to sustain themselves during the period of uncertainty of the pandemic (Frerejacque, 2020). The type of information that should be selected by the companies to be presented to the stakeholders for adequately meeting their expectations can be guided by the theory of deontology. The ethical theory of deontology states that morality of an action whether good or bad depends on the specific set of rules rather than on the outcomes of an action.
The proper communication with stakeholders as such can be regarded as extremely critical for the companies during the period of crisis as they are bounded by the legal rules of society, government and others (Shim and Kim, 2017). The ethical code of conduct established within the companies requires or binds them to act in the direction of proving maximum benefits to the stakeholders. As such, the companies are bounded by the code of conduct of an organization and thus the morality of their public disclosures is guided by the relevant rules rather than the outcomes attained by them. The code of conduct provides the necessary obligations of companies to the stakeholders such as enhancing the value of shareholders, protecting employee welfare, increasing customer satisfaction, compliance with legal rules and minimizing unethical conduct. In the context of this ethical theory, it can be said that business companies during the present time of pandemic need to protect the interests of the stakeholders by continuously provide them updates and information regarding the effect on their operations by the health emergency. This is required by their ethical norms and rules mentioned in the code of conduct and thus gaining the continuous support of the stakeholders for ensuring their survival during the present time of crisis (Sprinkle and Maines, 2010).
The global pandemic of Covid-19 has caused negatively impact the businesses on their performance and thus they are increasingly realizing the importance of ensuring their continuous engagement on social and governance issues for receiving continuous support from the stakeholders. The Covid-19 crisis is placing increased importance on the companies to address social aspect within ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). This is because managing Covid-19 immediate impact remains on the top priority of the public companies for continuously improving their disclosures and meeting the social expectations. The global pandemic has mainly caused social crisis due to high inequality, changes in the consumer behavior, nature of work and the role of technology has caused significant changes in the working patterns of individuals, workforce and the society (Scott, 2020). There are large social dimensions of the crisis with larger emphasis placed on continued stress on ensuring the wellbeing of people is causing the need for businesses to create positive impact on the society over the long term.
The businesses need to ensure that it is taking adequate measures for protecting its employees and customers this is because new social restrictions imposed by the economies that could negatively impact their welfare. There is large need for the businesses to induce changes in their working practices, logistics patterns, resources consumption and the significant changes in the needs and requirements of the customers. There is decrease in the global consumer spending with the presence of economic uncertainty and the decline in their income level (Fishman, 2020). Thus, it can be said that the pandemic of Ciovid-19 is having more impact on the social performance of the companies as compared to the environmental performance. This is because it is impacting the working patterns of the employees and the requirements of the customers and there is not a large impact on the environment in any form. Therefore, it is becoming largely essential for the companies to disclose information in relation to the changes induced in context of the working patterns of employees and the strategies adopted to ensure the safety of both the employees and the customers.
The pandemic had a huge social impact with the continued exposure to health risks faced by the workers and the socially disadvantages groups struggling for earning their livelihoods during the period of lockdowns. The social disruptions is also negatively impacting the mental health and well being of the people with rise in unemployment level and deductions in the salaries. The rising inequalities are creating a social unrest and thus the companies cannot be regarded as successful in societies that are facing such type of crisis. As such, it is required by the businesses to deploy their skills and assets to support the well-being and growth of the society (Brunswick ESG Team, 2020). Thus, it is required by the business companies to provide proper disclosures regarding the measures that they are adopted to address the social risks and ensuring their sustainable recovery from the crisis. The businesses also need to disclose information about the measures adopted by them to promote the social growth and overcoming the social problems such as inequality, health risks, unemployment, safety and security and others at the time of the crisis.
The investors are also largely relying on the social performance of the businesses rather than only focusing on their financial position to examine their strategies to sustain in the long-term by overcoming adequately the societal risk posed by the pandemic. As such, they are not analyzing the Return on Investment (ROI) and cash flow position of business but also examining their performance in terms of ensuring the safety and protection of their employees and customers from the health risks. The investors cannot make decisions solely on the basis of revenue, cost and risk due to presence of economic uncertainty and they need to examine the legal, ethical and community risks in addition to relying only on the financial aspects (UN News, 2020). This is necessary because the companies have a society dependency and an obligation to protect the communities in which they exist. Thus, it is required for the investors to ensure that businesses are adequately meeting their social obligations so that there is less risk for their continued growth and development.
The sustainability and the integrated reports can be regarded as the most effective corporate reporting media in communication of the non-financial information in response to the outbreak of Ciovid-19. This is because such reports will provide the changes indicated by the companies in terms of their social, economic and environmental measures to meet the recent challenges of Covid-19 (EY Global, 2020).
The selected corporate disclosures of the sustainability reports mainly disclose information in relation to the social and environmental performances of the business companies and their impact on improving their bottom line. These disclosures report the best practices adopted by the business corporations for fostering business sustainability. The relevance of disclosing such information is that it will provide assistance to the end users for making well-informed decisions (Alade and Nasieku, 2016). There is a direct link between the firm value and the information disclosure. The proper communication and dissemination in relation to the sustainability performance of the companies is essential to have a positive impact on the firm value by attaining the trust of the shareholders. Relevant and reliably disclosed sustainability report is essential to gain the trust of the stakeholders and the role of accountants is becoming increasingly important in this context. The professionally qualified accountants need to be regularly involved within the development and establishment of the internal control mechanisms and fraud prevention to improve the sustainability performance of the business companies.
I believe that the recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of the accountancy profession in responding effectively to the market changes and the shifts in the public expectations. Their active involvement is necessary for providing advice and assurance services in relation to the sustainability performance and reporting. This is because accountants possess in-depth knowledge in dealing with capital maintenance and as such has an adequate approach in thinking in terms of sustainability (Norreklit et al., 2009). The sustainability reports can provide them increased guidance regrading the long-term approach to the businesses and the ways they should maintain the capital structure for meeting the sustainable goals and objectives that have been stated.
It is also important for the accounting professionals to understanding that accounting functions are integral for ensuring the sustainable growth of the businesses. The internal audits conducted are critical to highlight the potential sustainability risks present within the businesses as stated within the sustainability reports. The role of the accountants is very important for carrying out a proper internal audit and identifying the materiality risks faced by the businesses during the occurrence of any type of crisis such as Covid-19 (Panetta, 2020). Also, the adequate disclosure sin the sustainability reports regarding the social and environmental performance is essential to improve credibility in the business operations and attaining a legitimate image for the investors and shareholders. The continued availability of funds and resources from the stakeholders is required to sustain a business and this fact should be adequately understood by the accounting professionals. Therefore, it is highly important that they should place higher emphasis on communication of adequate communication of non-financial information within the sustainability reports to have a positive impact on the firm value (Albu, 2011).
It can be stated from the overall discussion conducted within the report that the importance of providing quality public disclosures communicating is significant financial and non-financial information have gained significance during the recent period of Covid-19 pandemic. It has been inferred that companies are required to provide enhanced disclosures regarding the materially and risk assessment rising owing to the pandemic of Covid-19. There is more emphasis to be placed on stating the information regarding the societal risks arising due to pandemic and the measures adopted for addressing these risks. The stakeholders and legitimacy theory has also identified the need for business to provide more information regarding their social performance to achieve the trust of the stakeholders and receiving their continuous support to achieving the long-term goals and objectives of the businesses. The deontological theory of ethics has also argued that corporate communicators need to provide relevant and proper disclosures about the materiality risks as per the code of conduct. The sustainability reports or the integrated reports that are developed by the companies to report the information about their social and environmental performance
It is also recommended to the business companies in times of recent pandemic of Covid-19 that they should incorporate their non-financial performance in addition to their financial performance in their public disclosures. This is because the pandemic has huge social implications and therefore it is required that businesses need to provide proper information about the ways that they are adopting to maximise social welfare, This would helps in building the trust of the customers by ensuring that the businesses are placing high priority on health and safety parameters to deliver products and services to them. The information regarding such social aspects need to be provided within the sustainability reports that will play an important role in regaining the trust of the stakeholders towards the business operations.
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