Guest Writer: Bethany Andell with Savage Brands

Companies face tremendous pressure to focus on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts as demand spikes from customers, investors, employees, and governmental bodies.

 It is critical to self-measure and share these efforts in a Sustainability Report (SR) so that these stakeholders don’t make assumptions or their own conclusions about your results. 

Developing an SR is not for the faint of heart. It requires internal cohesion, an understanding of GRI sustainability reporting standards, material relevance of ESG issues to your business, and clear objectives about what the report will achieve. Some companies choose to develop a top-line overview, some a printed overview with more detail on their website, and others develop full-length, full-detail reports. There are also “One Reports,” where companies combine ESG and financial results, and Living Sustainability Reports, where information is shared in real-time.

Whether your company is embarking on its first sustainability report, looking to scale up reporting efforts or pursuing better Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) ratings, we have gathered three considerations to align your ESG reporting with current best practices. 

Digital Report Accessibility

It’s imperative to have a digital reporting presence to manage your sustainability story. For those who need the information, digital provides an easy access point to get what they need quickly. There are many ways to format a digital report. Some companies require printed copies, so design a traditional report that can be downloaded or printed from an online source. Others opt to create web-based hubs that are interactive, user-generated or dynamic and further illustrate their sustainability story. Either way, you need to make sure your sustainability report is optimized for web- and mobile-based viewing and access.

Individualized Information

Some people want more information than others or specific information for their work. Whether in a web hub or printable format, you can employ structural tools to help people find what they need. One best practice is to organize information from high-level messages to detailed data. Provide short summaries of compiled topics related to your sustainability approach and then follow with supplemental content. Many printed reports include a summary score card that readers can reference without having to read the entire narrative. Interactive, digital reports bring individualization to the forefront, allowing users to create charts, make data comparisons, access infographics or compile report information to their preference. Individualization is possible to do within every budget if thought about with intention.

Engaging Sustainability Stories

As we’ve shared in previous articleshumans are most impacted by stories that appeal to their hearts and minds. As ESG efforts unfold, paint a picture for others using examples of real people doing the work and the impact you’re making on the world. Videos, photography and case studies or small story-like vignettes can also breathe life into the data you are reporting. By incorporating storytelling, you will engage stakeholders and make more clear what the numbers you share mean in a concrete sense.

As your ESG efforts develop and grow, so can your sustainability reports. Any report will be successful when created with the intention to make the information accessible, relevant and engaging. This will make your sustainability report stand out, capture attention and communicate to stakeholders that you’re taking action to address their needs and expectations.

About Bethany Andell

As President at Savage Brands, Bethany is known for forging powerful connections – connecting people to people and connecting companies with the fresh ideas that make their brands purposeful. In her recent book, “Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose,” Bethany conveys to business leaders the importance of leading with purpose.