France has long been at the forefront of financial and extra-financial reporting, particularly through regulations around ESG
Northampton, MA –News Direct– Workiva
Could you tell us about Workiva’s activity in France? How long has the company been present? What are the specific business opportunities of the French market and what are your objectives for the next five years?
France has long been at the forefront of financial and extra-financial reporting, particularly through regulations around ESG. It was therefore evident that this market represented a major opportunity for Workiva. We therefore decided to invest in the creation of a dedicated local team, operational for almost three years now.
Even though we operate worldwide, it is essential to adopt an approach and a strategy specific to the French market to support our clients’ transformation projects. We wanted to offer them a tailor-made Workiva experience to help them meet business and strategic challenges.
In the short term, we want to go beyond financial reporting and offer other use cases for our platform, in particular to connect and centralize all internal reports, improve compliance and improve performance management. The objective is also for us to enlarge our ecosystem by developing French partnerships (audit and consulting firms, integrators) and our local customers.
You recently carried out a study on behavior around ESG, particularly in terms of investment. Could you tell us more about the results of this survey? What can companies and asset managers learn from this?
With the announcement of the SFDR (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation) in March 2021, Workiva decided to look into the reaction of individual investors to this new regulation. The regulations around ESG have existed for many years in France, so we are not surprised that French companies are very familiar with the issues. What is more interesting is to observe the responses and knowledge of the younger generations on this point. According to the results of our study, 83% of investors aged 18 to 34 know the provisions of the ESG in terms of investments, compared to 70% of those over 55.
In addition, the responses also show that performance related to ESG is starting to take center stage. More than half of French respondents say that ESG will be a crucial factor in decisions related to their investments. Investors want the societal and environmental impact of performance to be presented to them in a reliable manner. 40% of respondents trust numbers more than qualitative descriptions.
These results show that, for professionals, the presentation of company results is just as important as the simplification of the upstream financial reporting process. The new generation of investors will demand more transparency. Managers will therefore have to take these needs into account when creating asset portfolios.
France is at the forefront of ESG. The government recently created “Impact”, a platform dedicated to reporting on sustainable and environmental initiatives. What are the main difficulties encountered by French companies today in terms of reporting?
Regulatory requirements around ESG reporting are already very present in France. However, there are still many challenges to overcome. Access to the data required for reporting and the various controls still poses difficulties, especially when several departments of the same company are involved. As new regulations are put in place, CFOs need information from all sources, sometimes difficult to compile due to internal silos. The health crisis and teleworking have not helped the situation because the data is even more disparate. Collecting these can sometimes be complex depending on the source and the efficiency of the reporting process can therefore suffer.
The environmental, societal and governance are becoming major indicators by which companies are evaluated today. The “green” impact of companies on each of their activities must be communicated transparently to stakeholders. However, companies have not always had the right tools. With the right tools, they will be able to compile the data they need efficiently, quickly, and with simplified reporting.
Reporting requirements keep changing. In France, CSR reporting has been compulsory for listed companies since 2001 following the NRE law relating to new economic regulations. Several changes have been made in the meantime. Financial reporting has been extended via the declaration of non-financial performance (DPEF) for compliance with the European NFRD (Non-Financial Reporting Directive) and the publication of non-financial information in 2014. The European Commission published in April 2021 a first version of the revision of the NFRD, then of the CSRD directive (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive). How can companies quickly adapt to these new guidelines?
Businesses may face a few challenges when it comes to keeping pace with new regulations. The time between announcements and the implementation of regulations certainly gives them leeway, but they need time to understand them and adjust their processes. With the standardization of regulatory reporting, such as the arrival of the Single European Electronic Format (ESEF), companies have an opportunity to centralize and harmonize their internal processes.
They must first take stock of their current process and understand its workings in order to identify areas for improvement. Where are the bottlenecks? What are the most time-consuming or expensive phases? And what tools and knowledge to use to optimize them?
It is only by seeking the answers to these questions that they will be able to put in place new processes and effective governance to simplify their reporting.
Finally, an important point: companies are not alone. They can be accompanied by external experts to help them understand the new regulations and advise them.
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