Cutting the Clutter: Refining the Annual Report for the Modern Investor

With ever-increasing regulations, the annual report has evolved from a concise summary of performance and prospects into a sprawling volume that thickens by nearly eight pages with each passing year. This isn't a mere trend – it's a burgeoning challenge for reporting companies and confounds investors with its complexity.

For many companies, the pressures of time can also lead to ‘defensive reporting’ and choosing the easy option, which is to repeat the same content from the previous year or even to cut and paste from the reports of other companies, leading to disclosures of marginal importance.

New regulatory requirements and the fear of litigation often lead to over-disclosure and boilerplate jargon, especially around culture, diversity and sustainability risks and impacts. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) is addressing some of this with new standards for sustainability and climate-related financial disclosures, stressing the importance of materiality in preventing clutter.

As Mark O’Sullivan, Head of Corporate Reporting for PwC, states: “There's so much regulation coming in, we need to streamline the annual, but also ensure that all material information is in the annual report. There was a move to cross-reference outside of it, but we’ve been discussing how to bring that information back in.”

Add to this the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which is likely to significantly increase the length of annual reports as it brings in audited sustainability information to the front half of the report, allowing investors, regulators and other stakeholders to make more informed decisions about a company’s performance and direction.

So, it comes as no surprise that a growing number of investors and other stakeholders are sounding the clarion call for brevity. They want to understand what story the company wants to tell that year, distilled and focused, not drowned in a sea of pages. They desire potency over volume, relevance over repetition.

The Ever-expanding Annual Report

  • Reports have continued to grow in length. The average strategic report is now 82 pages long, up from 79 last year, with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) content making up 35% of the average strategic report content, up from 26% last year. This in part reflects the growing focus companies have on ESG matters, although some companies were not yet in scope for Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) reporting requirements at the time of last year’s review.
  • Governance reports (including remuneration) are on average 59 pages in length – up from 40 pages just five years ago – underlining the increased focus on diversity, the introduction of ESG or sustainability committees, and evidence of early adoption of governance regulatory changes.
  • With the sheer volume of new requirements on the horizon, this increase cannot continue. Now is the time to really focus on ‘cutting the clutter’, and weeding out the content that scarcely changes, or that could apply to virtually any organisation.

So how do we ‘cut the clutter’ and refine the content without losing its essence? Our recommendations below are aimed at supporting companies with this.


  • Content and narrative: Focus on what’s most material and relevant to your audience and their decision-making process. The report should resonate with investors’ priorities, ensuring that the company's strategic direction, ESG achievements and financial data take centre stage.
  • Reduce repetition: Ensure content is drafted in a clear, succinct way, employing bullets where appropriate and avoiding duplication through clear cross-referencing for more detailed information.
  • Review and refine: Allow ample time for a review, as most reports are written by different content providers, and keep a keen eye for overlaps and boilerplate policies, especially in leadership statements, business review and governance sections.

Move it online

  • Trim the evergreen: Content that remains unchanged year after year, such as the investment case, governance and remuneration policies, should migrate to the website.
  • Strategic summaries: Products and services, along with company history, could be conveyed in summaries that intrigue readers in the annual report and then point the reader to more detailed content and examples online.
  • Condensed case studies: Retain only select case studies for the annual report that capture and evidence year-relevant strategic achievements, bolstered by engaging visuals and more detailed narratives, and move the rest online.

Use design in a smarter way

  • Infographics: Include more infographics to complement complex information. An effective infographic translates numbers and statistics into a narrative, guiding the viewer through the data with a logical flow that highlights key points.
  • Design efficiency: Re-imagine layouts to prevent content sprawl. Use colour, tables, charts and thoughtful typography to make connections, land key messaging and enable quick comprehension.

Materiality as a Guideline

Disclosures should be guided by materiality, not checklists. IFRS Practice Statement 2 encourages entities to:

  • identify potentially material information;
  • evaluate the materiality of that information;
  • arrange information clearly and concisely; and
  • review the financial statement drafts.


To reduce pages, we could create a better-designed, more audience-focused and digital report, where we untether the static – company history, perennial policies and case studies –from the printed page. Instead, let’s anchor your company’s narrative in the digital realm, where it can be expanded upon, updated in real-time, and enriched with multimedia facets. It's about eschewing the one-size-fits-all approach that typifies generic, compliance-led reports, in favour of a more story-led report that captures the essence of your organisation. Think about your key audience: every piece of data, every story, every insight should be included with the intent of contributing meaningfully to the understanding of your company's performance and prospects.

In essence, the objective is not mere page reduction. It's about honing the annual report into a tool of engagement, a beacon that not only fulfils regulatory mandates but also captivates the stakeholders with its precision and accessibility. It’s about turning the tide on report inflation, shaping a narrative that cuts through the noise with the sharpness of Occam's razor, and crafting an annual report that not only informs but also inspires.

Let us help you cut through the clutter and focus on what investors really want – clarity, consistency and transparency. Get in touch. 


In Action: Case study examples:

Sage AR 2023
20 page reduction

For its 2023 Annual Report, Sage wanted to reduce the page count while continuing to showcase its sustainable value creation story. To achieve this without compromising on transparency, we refocused all reporting sections on mandatory disclosures, held workshops with content owners to identify the key purpose and data for the publications in Sage’s wider corporate and sustainability reporting suite with a view to minimising duplication between reports while ensuring clear cross-referencing, refocused the TCFD disclosure on GHG emissions and key risks and opportunities and leveraged hyperlinks and QR codes to drive non-essential content, such as case studies and product information, to the website. This approach saved over 20 pages across the strategic and governance report, which allowed Sage to introduce topical new content, such as an interview with their Chief Technology Officer about how technological innovation, including AI, is benefiting their customers while data is kept secure.

Ocado AR 2022
44 page reduction

Annual reports are vital documents for stakeholders to grasp a company's performance, strategies, and governance. However, they often suffer from garrulity and repetition, leading to reader fatigue. For Ocado’s 2022 Annual Report Luminous collaborated with the Ocado team to reduce the size of their report and improve the reader experience.

The initial step involved identifying and eliminating wasted space by optimising layouts. This included removing redundant images and minimising empty space while maintaining readability. In addition, the strategy section underwent a redesign, focusing on clarity and brevity. Complex ideas were distilled into succinct statements and tables, supported by visuals like charts and graphs, effectively communicating Ocado's strategic direction and saving page space. Related content was consolidated to avoid duplication and streamline information flow. For instance, separate sections on Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) partners were merged into an "At a Glance" overview, providing a comprehensive snapshot while reducing redundancy. Concerning sustainability disclosure, we adopted a materiality-focused approach, prioritising topics based on stakeholder significance and Ocado's business operations. Key metrics, initiatives, and impacts were highlighted, streamlining disclosure while maintaining transparency and relevance.

The successful reduction of Ocado's 2022 Annual Report exemplifies the efficacy of targeted clutter reduction strategies, even for compliance-heavy FTSE companies. Through layout optimisation, content redesign, consolidation, and a materiality-focused approach to disclosure, we achieved a more concise, impactful, and reader-friendly Annual Report.


CLS AR 2023
80 page reduction

Streamlining annual reports is crucial for both clarity and impact. Working on CLS Holdings' 2023 report, we achieved an impressive reduction of 80 pages from the previous year. Our approach to design and content focused heavily on efficiency without compromising content. Through a page-turn of the report non-essential content was moved elsewhere, offering readers additional details without cluttering the Annual Report. Separating less material and deep explanations of sustainability information into a dedicated report minimised clutter and excess content considerably, but still allowed for material issues and compliance. Both the risk management and strategy sections were streamlined to highlight key information and CLS’s strong approach to mitigation and strategic action. Meanwhile, market context was integrated into business reviews and leadership statements to create a more integrated insight into strategic operations in the current environment, while avoiding duplication.

The significant 80 page reduction in CLS’s 2023 Annual Report demonstrates the effectiveness of decluttering strategies and offers insights into other companies aiming to streamline reporting without sacrificing clarity and impact.