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COMPANIES often exhort the importance of corporate transparency, but their financial statements and disclosure practices may tell a different story - concealing more than they are revealing, crowded with boilerplate statements and shying away from information that investors need to make informed decisions.
Many companies prefer not to discuss sensitive topics such as remuneration and diversity policies. But City Developments (CDL), the winner of the most transparent company award this year in the real estate category at the SIAS Investors' Choice Awards, says it does not avoid these discussions.
The base salaries and variable bonuses and allowances of its directors and CEO, as well as other fees and benefits, are available for all to see in its annual report. And the breakdown of its workforce by age group, gender and race are also available in its sustainability report.
This is the property developer's second consecutive year winning the award. In an interview, CEO Grant Kelley said good corporate governance is not just about business ethics and responsibility; it is also the cornerstone of any corporation that wants to remain relevant for the future.
"Corporations today operate in a business landscape which is ever evolving and interconnected. Given the complexity of the environmental, social and governance frameworks that businesses have to address today, we continue to refine our management approach to adapt to the changing macroeconomic landscape for business sustainability," he said.
The developer company adopts a "triple bottom line" approach which seeks to optimise the mix of three distinct but related ingredients: financial performance, environmental stewardship, and social engagement.
"This has shaped a culture of strong corporate governance and sustainability, from the chairman and board to all levels of the company, helping us to operate more efficiently, mitigate risks, build trust, strengthen our brand and create lasting value," he said.
CDL has worked to keep channels of communication and feedback from stakeholders open. This enables the company to understand evolving expectations. It also has a corporate governance framework to inform stakeholders of their rights and encourage them to communicate their concerns. For example, CDL has a whistle-blowing procedure where stakeholders can raise concerns on possible improprieties or other matters without fear of reprisals.
Transparency also has to do with maintaining a relationship with investors, and helping mom-and-pops understand the business and its performance. To this end, CDL had in April this year announced new management appointments, including a head of investor relations, which reflects its commitment to better engage with the investment community.
"Since the creation of this dedicated function, the senior management team has been proactively meeting with investors and we have seen positive feedback from the investment community," Mr Kelley said.
"To enhance our communications with the investment community, we have introduced a live webcast of our financial results briefings this year. We have also participated in various investor conferences and non-deal roadshows, locally and internationally, to reach out to our investors - existing and potential."
Through its corporate reporting, it also seeks to present a holistic picture to investors and stakeholders on how CDL's business and sustainability performance leads to value creation over time.
"Since 2008, CDL has published a dedicated sustainability report annually. In 2015, we also became the first property developer in Singapore to adopt the Integrated Reporting approach for our sustainability report. The report also addresses stakeholders' concerns about materiality issues for long-term value creation," it said.
It added that the host of the awards, the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or SIAS1, has also played a crucial role in organising programmes and conferences for companies to interact and communicate with retail investors.
CDL also won two other accolades: a Merit award in the Singapore Corporate Governance Award - Diversity category, and a runner-up for the Internal Audit Excellence Award. Mr Kelley said he is "heartened" and "honoured" that CDL has been recognised for its efforts in refining its disclosure frameworks.