2020 was a year filled with extreme and extraordinary events. All of which played out in the context of the extraordinary global health crisis that is the Coronavirus pandemic.
A year of extremes
Here in Australia we endured bush fire disasters, the death of the Holden car brand and the tragedy of SAS war crimes in Afghanistan, to name but a few of the bigger news stories. Abroad we finally witnessed the UK formally leaving the EU, a massive fertiliser explosion in Beirut and the death of George Floyd, which fuelled the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Of course no review of news coverage is complete without reference to US President, Donald Trump. The many Trump headlines include being cleared of impeachment by a partisan US senate to catching and recovering from COVID-19 and, so far, refusing to concede defeat in the November US presidential election.
But it is global impact of the Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the respiratory disease it causes, COVID-19, that has dominated news coverage. As we move through the final month of 2020 the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting 220 countries and territories around the world. There have been over 70 million Coronavirus cases recorded and over 1.5 million deaths attributed to COVID-19. More recently, however, there has been positive news with the start of COVID-19 vaccine roll outs in the final weeks of the year.
FIRST Edition, the monthly newsletter from FIRST Advisers, covered the impact of COVID-19 on listed companies in several articles, ranging from highlighting changes to companies continuous disclosure obligations, tips for running effective Virtual AGMs to an overview of the regulatory changes to help get COVID-19 capital raisings away. In fact a COVID-19 blog features amongst our top three most accessed articles in 2020, which were:
COVID-19 and guidance
In March, as guidance and outlook statements from the February reporting season were being binned in response to COVID-19, we published our Guidance in uncertain times article. This blog drew on deep experience within our IR team of how to ensure investors remain as well informed as possible in the absence of clear financial guidance. This experience has been gained, in part, from advising companies during times of extreme fear and uncertainty in the market, such as the GFC.
ESG reporting to the fore
Alongside the blanket coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic, our blogs on ESG generated a lot of interest. The ESG reporting among the ASX300 article, compiled by FIRST Advisers Shareholder Analytics department, has been the most frequently accessed. The team analysed how companies were responding to shareholders demands for greater ESG transparency, what ESG reporting frameworks were being adopted and the intersection of ESG reporting and a company’s access to capital markets.
The Tipping point for ESG
In June, The Tipping Point for ESG is now, was the second most accessed individual article. It is the concluding piece of a two part blog which, if combined with Part 1, would take top spot. Over the course of the blogs our Investor Relations team explored the outperformance of ESG funds during COVID-19 and what that means for companies looking to integrate ESG metrics into their financial reporting. We also reviewed the four main global ESG reporting frameworks and how they were being adopted by Australian companies.
Throughout 2020 there has been much reporting of having to adapt to a ‘new normal’ even as the Coronavirus pandemic meant circumstances remained in a state of flux, borders opened and closed and the fate of vaccines ebbed and flowed. We have become familiar with new ways to behave such as social distancing; diligent hand sanitising and virtual meetings. With luck, the arrival of vaccines will allow a stable ‘new normal’ to be established in 2021. Until then we wish our readers a safe and merry Christmas and hope you can relax, recharge and enjoy the festive period.