A business report is meant to provide investors and other stakeholders with information that is important in running a particular business. Specifically, business reports give the stakeholders an idea on the status of their investment. These reports also highlight problems encountered by the business. They also contain the strategic plans that will be put in place to solve the problems in the future.
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This paper is an evaluation of two companies’ annual reports. The paper takes into consideration all factors in business reporting, such as services, products, the environment, and the internal and external stakeholders. The paper will be based on the annual reports of Mitsubishi and Sony companies.
The two companies have come up with reports to create awareness among all the stakeholders. This is as far as corporate social responsibility (herein referred to as CSR) in the two companies is concerned. The reports also address the CSR strategies that the companies are planning to undertake
Scope and Limitations of the Report
This paper will focus on the differences between the reports of the two companies. This is in terms of the range of issues dealt with in the reports and how these issues are addressed. Specifically, the report will cover the following issues:
- Explain the differences between the reports of the two companies in terms of such factors as country and industry of focus.
- Assess the quality of reporting in the two companies based on Zadek’s 1997 criteria (Zhong 2009).
- Evaluate the appropriateness of using standardised reporting procedures in the two companies.
- Make recommendations on how each of the two reports can be improved. The need for such improvements will also be highlighted.
These are addressed below:
Identifying the Differences between the Reports of the Two Companies in Terms of the Range of Issues Dealt with and how the Issues are Addressed
In this section, the author will try to identify the issues addressed by the two companies in their respective reports. The author will also try to analyse how each of the two companies address these issues.
Mitsubishi Materials’ CSR Report for the Year 2011
A critical analysis of the report reveals that it was intended to provide information to investors and other parties interested in Mitsubishi Materials Group. It was also formulated to create awareness on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities undertaken by the Mitsubishi Materials Group.
The report was structured using clear, precise, and simple language. This is to make it easier for the stakeholders to understand (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010). It is also noted that the report covers nine different areas that were selected to highlight the best strategies to acquire materials in the 2008 fiscal year.
The report has gone a step further to elaborate on the company’s medium-term management plan, which was put in place on August 2011. Additionally, it addresses the initiatives taken by the group to deal with the damage caused by the infamous ‘Great East Japan Earthquake’ and its devastating effects.
The report is not a mere summary of the company’s CSR initiatives. On the contrary, the report is aimed at improving and diversifying these initiatives. To this end, the report is presented in a precise and accurate way to provide the reader with relevant and meaningful information that is significant for the growth of the company. The report meets the requirements of the Global Reporting Initiative (herein referred to as GRI). This is required given that the company is affiliated to CCMM (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010).
The disclosure of information touching on the company’s operations is not limited to the report on material CSR. It is noted that information about the company can also be found in the CSR section of the company’s website. This is all aimed at effectively reporting on the company’s extensive CSR activities.
An undiscerning reader may form the opinion that the report focuses more on 2011 fiscal year than on any other period. This is not the case, given that the report has incorporated information related to activities before and after that time.
Being a member of the ICMM, Mitsubishi has assumed the responsibility of publishing the Metals Company Supplementary Data Book, which is a significant online report that extensively reviews the undertakings of various metal companies. This is all aimed at enhancing full disclosure of information in the industry (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010).
The review also addresses the actions taken by the company’s three smelting subsidiaries. These are Hosokura Metal Mining Co. Ltd., Onahama Smelting and Refining Co. Ltd. (Sony Global 2012), and PT Smelting in Indonesia.
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The company has adhered to version 3.0 of the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The report contains a disclaimer to the effect that any individual wishing to invest in the company on the basis of the information provided in the report will be held liable to any damage or losses accruing thereof. This is given that such a decision should be personal.
Sony’s Annual Report for the Year 2012- Business and CSR Review
The report is structured in such a way that it provides the reader with information on the company’s activities during the 2011 fiscal year. The report addresses the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, as well as the business and investment initiatives taken. The report also introduces the new CEO and president of the company, Kazuo Hirai.
The company provides information on the three major businesses that it is running. These are electronics, financial services, and entertainment. The financial and entertainment sectors recorded a positive growth. It is also noted that the two sectors are expected to grow further in the future (Sony Global 2012).
However, the electronics market is unpredictable. The proceeds from the electronics sector were relatively low as a result of the effects of product commoditisation. This is in addition to the effects of the deteriorating foreign exchange rates. It is for this reason that the biggest task for the incoming CEO should be to reposition and reconstruct the electronics business. It is a matter of urgency as far as the stakeholders are concerned.
Sony Corporation has a reputation for ground breaking innovations and products, as well as high quality entertainment services. The company has over the years inspired many investors. Its scope of operations and methodology has made various stakeholders very curious.
However, it is noted that the group now aims at revolutionising its most valuable resource, which is the Sony’s DNA. This is the strong will, ability, and desire to come up with high quality products and services. This has been in place since the inception of the company. The group now aims at ensuring that every employee owns and expresses the Sony DNA individually so as to enhance growth of the company (Sony Global 2012).
In the fiscal year 2011, the company’s operations, especially in the electronics field, were adversely affected by the earlier mentioned Great East Japan Earthquake. This is together with the infamous Thailand floods of 2011. The situation was made worse by the economic crisis that negatively affected many foreign currencies.
This in turn led to a decrease in the prices of the goods and services offered by the company. The company recorded an operation’s loss of approximately 67.3 billion Yen. This is in comparison to the 199.8 billion Yen in the previous fiscal year. This was as a result of the decline in the net sales.
The company also reported on the measures put in place to address such situations in the future. This is especially so the measures put in place to revamp the electronics business. The directors expressed the need to act fast and decisively to restore the company’s lost glory and improve its performance.
Included in the report was the corporate strategy adopted by the company. This is in efforts to restore the entity. The company identified various core areas of operation. The main pillars that were identified included digital imaging, games, and mobile business. These were identified as the key areas in restructuring the electronics business.
The business highlights was another significant area that was addressed by the report. It was noted that consolidated sales were decreasing from one year to the other due to the unfavourable effects of the deteriorating foreign exchange rates.
This is in addition to the shrinking of the markets in developed countries, as well as the Great East Japan Earthquake and the floods in Thailand among other catastrophes (Sony Global 2012). There were also the operation losses incurred during that period. This led to a huge net loss on the part of the Sony Corporation’s stockholders.
As part of the company’s CSR initiatives, the management entered into an agreement with Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, stage name ‘Lady Gaga’, a singer and song writer. It is noted that this artist had performed really well in the past. She received financial assistance from the company. The report also provides the reader with information on the performance of the company’s shares in the market. The figure below is an excerpt from the report:
Figure 1: Sony Global’s Stock Information
Adapted from: Sony Global 2012
An Analysis of the Differences between the Two Reports in Terms of Country and Industry Based Factors
The company mainly focuses on the manufacture and distribution of products that address the social aspects of the community. It aims at providing the most basic needs for individuals in the society. This is to help them survive or make their life better (Mobile Reference 2010). It is for this reason that the company has invested heavily by assisting the victims of the earthquake.
There is also the copper mining business that the company is involved in. The Copper Mountain Mine rejuvenation project was initiated in 2009. However, actual mining has been taking place since 1996. The corporation is aiming at mining as many minerals as possible. It has invested heavily in the sector (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010).
The company has also made initiatives to recycle waste materials and come up with products that are useful to the community (Tsimhoni et al. 2005a). At the company’s Kyushu cement plant, plans are underway to start recycling incinerated ash from the waste generated by the municipal council. The project was supposed to begin on April 2012.
This will solve the environmental crisis that is likely to result from the process of melting ash into slag. The company is also involved in the metal smelting business. It is currently putting in place plans to recycle scrap metal.
The company has also put in place measures to safeguard and protect the environment. It is committed to the creation of a self sustaining community. It is as a result of this that the company initiated the Eco Contest award scheme, which aims at recognising and awarding the most efficient and outstanding ideas and contributions in the development of a low carbon or recycling-oriented society. In the first Eco Contest Award Ceremony held in April 2011, there were a total of ten award categories (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010).
The Sony Company is known for its ability to manufacture and distribute high quality products. Moreover, the company is well known for the high quality entertainment services. The company has diversified its operations by coming up with innovative hardware. As a result, the company has a remarkable collection of film, games’ content, and music (Lyons 2006).
The Sony Group has vast interests in the electronics business. However, during the 2011 fiscal year, the business was facing many challenges. As such, the profits declined. This was largely instigated by the deteriorating foreign exchange rates and the competition brought about by product commoditisation. It is for this reason that the group finds it very important to act swiftly and restore the lost glory.
The group is also trying to put in place measures that will revamp the industry. The company has identified several key areas in the electronics business. These are digital imaging, gaming (Andresen 2002), and mobile operations. As a result of this, the company will focus its investments in these areas.
Sony is going a step higher by engaging in activities that are more innovative than those undertaken by the various competitors. The activities are likely to improve the performance of the company. This is through the growth of set apart technology, which is better placed to improve the quality of the products.
One of the company’s major undertakings is in the medical field. Currently, this involves the production and supply of printers, cameras, monitors, and other peripheral products specifically designed for the medical field (Hockerts 2008).
The Sony Group is also engaged in the provision of financial services. This sector is expected to record a positive growth. This is considering the performance of this sector in the recent past. In an effort to uphold high standards of operations and maintain a sound financial standing, the various companies under the group’s umbrella have continued to provide high quality financial products. This is through the adoption of an inventive business model.
The companies include Sony Financial Holdings, Sony Life Insurance Co. (Zhong 2009), Sony Bank Inc., and Sony Assurance (Tsimhoni et al. 2005b). Sony Life, for instance, has maintained its successful operations with a lot of ease. As a result, it has recorded an increase in its ‘policy sum in force’ (Ohga 2008).
The company has attained this through its enhanced interaction with the customers. It is also able to design and sell customised life insurance products that appeal to the clientele. According to Guerrier (1999), Sony Assurance enjoys a broad spectrum of customers as a result of its reasonable premiums. This is in addition to its segmented risk and high quality services that have led to increased market share.
An inclusive report focuses on all aspects of a given agenda. For instance, an inclusive report will take into consideration such factors as services, products, and the environment within which the company is operating. It will also take into consideration both internal and external stakeholders (Mitsubishi Zaidan 2009).
To this end, Mitsubishi has designed its report to create awareness among all stakeholders in an inclusive manner. This is especially so with respect to the CSR initiatives that the company is planning to take (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010).
In the report, the management talks about the employees and their overall approach to CSR. Moreover, the report highlights the framework used by the company to promote CSR and corporate governance.
In addition, the report talks about the company’s medium term management plan, which runs from 2012 to 2014 (Mitsubishi Corporation 2010). This adequately informs all stakeholders on what to expect (Mitsubishi Motors 1985).
The company has highlighted other issues in its report. The report addresses the important role played by the society in providing resources. In addition, the report highlights the importance of the environment. It also mentions the company’s efforts in combating global warming, as well as the company’s promotion of eco- friendly products and technology. At the end of the day, Mitsubishi report can be considered as inclusive, given that it mentions and takes into consideration almost all the aspects of an annual report (Mishima 2009).
However, Sony’s report is more inclusive than that of Mitsubishi. It starts by introducing the company’s envisaged corporate strategy. Though this can be compared to the strategic management plan adopted by Mitsubishi, Sony’s corporate strategy stands out. This is given that it features some of the company’s products. In addition to this, Sony addresses the issue of management and its overall approach to CSR.
This is under the internal stakeholders section. The report also highlights the major areas in the corporate strategy, which will transform the company’s future. Moreover, the report highlights the framework that will be adopted to promote CSR and corporate governance. This adequately informs all stakeholders. It also helps them appreciate the efforts made by the management (Choquette & Turnbull 2002).
Just like in the case of Mitsubishi, Sony highlights other issues in its report. The report takes into consideration the important role played by the society in enhancing the performance of the company. In addition, the report highlights the importance of the environment. It also addresses the efforts made by the company to improve resource management and address issues pertaining to climate change.
This is in addition to the company’s promotion of eco- friendly products and technology, as well as effective chemical- substance management (Barney & Griffith 2002). This being the case, Sony Company’s annual report can be considered to be more inclusive as compared to that of Mitsubishi (Wray 2004).
In reporting, comparability can be conceptualised as the fair and balanced presentation of issues. It is important for a company’s report to be as comparative as possible by addressing all the concerns (Stout 2010). For example, it is important to mention the company’s corporate strategy, future management plan, and other issues affecting the company directly or indirectly. All of this should be covered adequately (Andresen 2002).
For instance, apart from providing information on the losses incurred by the company as a result of the Great North Japan Earthquake, the reports of the two companies are optimistic about the future. The reports also express support for environmental conservation. This is through the promotion of eco-friendly products and technology.
Sony has outdone Mitsubishi in comparativeness. As mentioned above, the report highlights the importance of the environment. It also addresses the efforts made by the company in improving resource management, as well as issues pertaining to climate change (Pfarrer 2010). This is in addition to the company’s promotion of eco-friendly products and technology, as well as effective chemical- substance management. In addition, the report takes into consideration the importance of the society in providing resources.
In report writing, completeness is achieved through detailed description of the subjects addressed. Specifically, completeness describes the exhaustiveness of the subjects in question (Poitras 2011). Generally, it is not easy to ascertain the completeness of a particular report. This is given that such an analysis addresses the exhaustiveness of the subjects highlighted in the report (Sony 2000).
It is also important to note that completeness is different from inclusivity and comparability (Hays 1999). The Sony Company’s annual report may be ahead of Mitsubishi’s as far as inclusivity and comparability are concerned. However, both companies have effectively and exhaustively tackled the issues mentioned in their reports.
Evolution, Continuous Improvement, Management Policies, and Systems
It is important to mention the company’s vision and the strategic plans that have been put in place to cope with the changes in the world in the annual report (Thoreau 2007). On the one hand, Mitsubishi has put in place a solid management plan that runs up to 2014 (Cosans 2012).
The plan aims at reconstructing the company and improving its products by making them friendly to the environment. On the other hand, Sony reports on the measures put in place to address future issues and to revamp the electronics business. The management expresses the need to act fast and decisively in order to restore the company’s lost glory.
The company’s corporate strategy was also included in the report. This is the strategy aimed at rehabilitating the company. As already indicated in this paper, the company identified the core areas of operation. Digital imaging, games, and mobile operations were identified as core businesses in the company. These were identified as the major ingredients of the plan to restructure the electronic business.
Disclosure is important in report writing. It is meant to ‘inclusively’ create awareness among all the stakeholders (Wilcke 2012) as far as CSR initiatives are concerned. In the case of disclosure, information provided by the company is not restricted to the corporate social responsibility section of the report. This is given the fact that more information can be found in the CSR section in the company’s website. This is an indication of the fact that the company has embraced technology in a bid to effectively report on the various CSR initiatives taken (Atkin 2004).
The Need for a Standardised Method of Reporting
As earlier mentioned in this paper, a business report is meant to provide information that is crucial in making decisions in a given company. The management provides a highlight of the problems that were faced within a given period and how such problems were addressed. Recommendations for future operations are also provided.
However, it is important to note that it is difficult to compare investments made by different companies. This is given the different reporting strategies adopted by different companies (Frisch 2004). Therefore, a standardised reporting model will make it easier to determine the operational procedures (Chang 2008), commercial objectives, business management models, as well as the perceived enterprise viability in different companies (Fukasaku 2002).
Recommendations and Conclusion
In this section of the report, the author will make recommendations on how to improve the future operations of the two companies. The weaknesses and strengths will be identified. This is in addition to the strategies that can be adopted to address the weaknesses and exploit the strengths.
Recommendations for Sony
Repetition is very common in advertising. However, it is not wise to keep repeating information about products when writing a report (Barnett 2009a). Instead, the company should try to provide investors with information that is more important to them, such as cash flow strategy, debt market conditions, and acquisitions.
Recommendations for Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi should note that the compilation of annual reports needs inputs from various stakeholders. These are contributions and inputs from a wide range of stakeholders with varying reporting and operating preferences (Barnett 2009b). This being the case, Mitsubishi should make deliberate efforts to combine the contributions from both internal and external stakeholders. This is in order to come up with a comprehensive and highly integrated document.
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