While the financial statements and audit report can be seen as the core of the annual report, the AR nowadays contains much other useful information, apart from the requirements of national company law and stock exchanges/regulatory agencies where the bank’s shares are listed.

Most influential are:

  • the United Nations Social Development Goals – a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the UN General Assembly and are supposed to be achieved by the year 2030, and;
  • The pronouncements of the International Integrated Reporting Council – a global coalition of regulators, investors, companies, standard-setters, the accounting profession, academia and NGOs. “It is the primary institutional forum on matters related to integrated reporting and integrated thinking, as well as a medium for its interaction and provision of advice, guidance, and input on issues of relevance for the organisation, including its nature, objectives, purpose, vision and mission, as well as its strategy and the means by which to deliver it”.

When a company produces an annual report that goes beyond the requirements of company law to include the pronouncements of the International Integrated Reporting Council on matters such as Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance it is said to be producing an integrated annual report.

In recent years it has become the norm for banks to produce unaudited standalone “Sustainability Reports”, containing vast amounts of environmental, social and governance material. Typically, this is not reconciled to the financial statements in the regular annual report – but this will likely change in the next few years.

In the following example, we reproduce important extracts from the Integrated Annual Report 2021 from Capitec, one of the world’s most successful retail-only banks.