Keep it simple and relevant
There are so many ways to share business success: from executive communications, to financial disclosure, to sustainability reports. For the latter, a well-crafted blend of content and data should paint a clear picture that anyone can understand.
Today there is a lot of emphasis on sustainability reporting. Many companies have issued reports or at least created a webpage dedicated to sustainability. Others are preparing to report on ESG for the first time. Here are some concerns expressed by executives we work with when considering issuing their first sustainability report:
- Is it the right time? Some worry they are too early, lacking a perfect strategy, complete data, or impressive results.
- Are we too late? Others fear they might appear to be jumping on the ESG bandwagon after others have already issued their reports.
- Is it just box ticking? Many wonder if producing a report is a routine action because everyone else does it and investors expect it.
Our advice is not to delay too long. It’s not just that the competition is out of the gate already. An ESG report is more than a communication tool; it is also a means to an end. While preparing to disclose, you need to figure out what data to gather, involve all teams who provide that data, and create a sustainable process to capture and audit it. This is a good time to define or refine your sustainability strategy, including setting goals and determining which KPIs to measure.
For the executive signing the introductory letter of the report, this is a chance to share their company’s impact, purpose and values. Articulating convincingly how the company is contributing to a better society and how they plan to leave a positive legacy can transform an executive into a chief storyteller.
Here are five tips to creating a compelling report:
- Avoid using complicated, technical, or boilerplate language. Treat the report as a piece of captivating storytelling, considering an audience of employees, customers, and investors.
- Keep it short. Readers need concise information about the company’s sustainability plans. Edit ruthlessly.
- Tell a visual story. Refrain from relying solely on green imagery. Ensure the visuals are relevant to the business or the user stories.
- Balance the focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. While motivational stories about charity, employee-led programs, and diversity policies are important for employer branding and cultural identity, a sustainable business extends beyond CSR. Overemphasizing these aspects might raise doubts about the company’s commitment to critical sustainability areas.
- Don’t aim for perfection. Seek inspiration from other reports within the industry, especially if you’re producing the first one for the company. Find the company’s own sustainability voice, anchored in relevant data and hard facts. Transform the ESG report into a powerful tool for communication and reputation-building.
Sustainability reporting is not only a way to communicate your company’s environmental, social, and governance performance, but also a catalyst for improving it. It can align your business strategy with your sustainability goals, help to identify and manage risks and opportunities, and enhance your reputation and stakeholder relations. Sustainability reporting is not a one-time exercise, but a continuous journey of learning and improvement.