Q: How are corporates faring regarding transparency and accountability?
A: The recent Transparency in Corporate Reporting (TRAC) report, when compared to the previous edition, indicates that companies have made improvements in being transparent in their reporting, which is encouraging to see among the top 75 listed companies in Sri Lanka.
Transparency and accountability are essential requirements of corporate governance. Therefore, companies are giving due importance to including public disclosures about organisational policies, procedures and practices in their corporate reporting.
Feedback from independent ranking platforms help the private sector identify how we can bridge the gap to further improve our reporting benchmarks.
Q: What does it mean for Aitken Spence to be ranked in the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) report?
A: We are honoured to be recognised among the top companies for the second time in TISL’s assessment of transparency in corporate reporting. It reinforces the organisation’s commitment to ensure transparency in its operations – especially through performance disclosures.
Aitken Spence has worked over many years to develop its internal procedures to align with local and global best practices endorsed by the company.
The group’s reporting structure has always provided a balanced review of its performance with high levels of transparency while communicating relevant material information in a concise yet comprehensive manner.
These external assessments are mechanisms for us to identify opportunities for growth. We take independent feedback seriously to strengthen our management practices. Public disclosures and these platforms provide useful insights into how we can elevate our benchmarks.
We also thank TISL for its detailed report and anticipate that this will further strengthen future corporate disclosures.
Q: How has this recognition helped Aitken Spence?
A: This review illustrates broader stakeholder expectations on addressing ethical business practices and aligning them with international benchmarks.
At Aitken Spence, we follow global benchmarks on our business operations as well as reporting. Moreover, honesty and transparency are integral components of our core values and resonate with how we strive to operate as a responsible organisation that truly walks the talk.
Q: And how important are good governance practices for private sector companies?
A: Transparency builds trust; that’s the cornerstone for any sustainable relationship with any stakeholder.
For the private sector, transparency – especially in our public disclosures – is a crucial element in ensuring good corporate governance and mitigating the risk of corruption. This is why it is also a fundamental part of sustainability reporting structures for companies.
The group’s corporate governance framework is based on five key principles: leadership, culture and ethics, risk management and internal controls, accountability and shareholder communications.
These principles ensure the execution of the group’s strategic objectives both effectively and ethically in compliance with applicable legislation in the markets in which we operate.
Moreover, we adapt to globally accepted best practices by continuously refining our structures, policies and procedures, which are aimed at strengthening the group’s governance framework.
Aitken Spence has demonstrated leadership in transparency, accountability and good governance on diverse platforms.
The company has been consistently recognised among the top ranks in the ACCA Sustainability Reporting Awards, the CMA Excellence in Integrated Reporting Awards and Annual Report Awards conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka).
And it has maintained its Platinum ranking in the STING Corporate Accountability Index published by LMD in consecutive rankings since 2010.
Q: Is financial reporting a critical focus area for corporates striving to achieve operational excellence?
A: Yes, it is important to be transparent about how we invest and the outcomes of utilised capital. We believe it is a valuable mechanism to monitor and measure performance. It enables us to share our work with key stakeholders while seeking their perspectives on future direction.
Aitken Spence was also one of the first companies to introduce a comprehensive shareholder feedback form in its annual report, following comprehensive research of the reporting practices of over 100 companies across South Asia.
It is equally important to adopt credible nonfinancial reporting practices benchmarked to universal standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
At Aitken Spence, we have been aligning our disclosures with the GRI framework since 2008. Our disclosures are also aligned with the guidelines of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) for better demonstration of information with more clarity.
Q: What are your organisation’s future plans?
A: We’re on an accelerated strategy to improve our processes and technology as we feel the future lies in upscaling these key areas. We have taken these steps to be poised to meet future demands.
In addition to several new initiatives planned, we’re also aggressively considering new investments.