Why NOW Is the Best Time to Start Your NEXT Sustainability/ESG Report
Reporting is cyclical. And, when done right, it helps business leaders make better decisions. So, whatever phase you are in, it’s a good time to start thinking ahead.
Disseminate: Publish your report
Congrats! Go ahead and take a week or two to detox, rest and relax—it is a lot of work getting that baby out the door. But, don’t rest on your laurels too long…amplify the messages across channels. Make the content available in multiple formats and for specific audiences and make sure your internal teams can make it work for them. The report is relevant for many many moths to come.
Listen: Gather feedback
Paired with getting the information out is gathering feedback. The six months or so after you publish your report will bring the most constructive input on how to improve the next one. What did IR have to say? Did investors use it? Did the sales team reference it, or any of the content developed for the report? What about HR/Talent? Could the content be reframed for any of these audiences who might not need the full report? Is a highlights document of interest? Plus, this is a great time for some external stakeholder engagement. The company will be using the report—and the content—across the year; continue to assess its usefulness throughout that time.
Strategize: What’s your ESG/Sustainability ambition?
While you are using the current report and digesting the feedback, it is time to think strategically about the next report. Maybe it’s time to dive into how ESG/Sustainability Reporting is helping decision making at the company, and build that multi-year reporting strategy? Is this the year to reassess Material issues? Set or adjust your goals? Step back and do a gap analysis for the frameworks you report to or the raters you are focused on? Do you have audiences who need more of a deep dive on one aspect, say DEI or Climate? What did the feedback say? And how can you make the report better in the next cycle?
Collect: Stories and data
The content gathering process never stops. If a story isn’t fully developed for this cycle’s report, it may be for the next. Data gathering needs a system to be put in place and monitored. Colleagues from across the organization can get aligned with the ESG efforts, and the content created (and vetted) should be useful to them as well. A credible ESG story goes a long way and is a key input to the report, with case studies and proof points to back it up. Engaging with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) regularly makes this process a seamless year-round routine.
Create: Make ESG/sustainability information accessible
The creation process is the manifestation of all the other steps. Without making vehicles to disseminate, the great stories and data don’t reach the key audiences. This is the opportunity to translate the technical information for wide audiences and tell the story in a visual way, to help everyone engage. Be sure to plan for various channels of distribution too: a PDF, social posts, on your corporate website—wherever your audiences are. And, write in clear language to ensure the messages are heard, understood and remembered.
Do you have the right team?
What type of support do you need? If your current report process was/is painful, take a look at the team you have supporting the effort. Think about how you want to work and what’s missing, so you can build the best team to make the process easier.
If you are looking for more expert support, you may need to make the case for the budget. Use facts and data keeping the CEO and CFO in mind. Even though reporting, storytelling, and stakeholder and employee engagement are critical to success, they are not seen as revenue generators, so leadership might need convincing. Use information about the effectiveness of the report (internally and externally), its usefulness (internally and externally), and the growing market expectations for companies like yours to make the case for the resources you need to create a stellar report.
How Ideas On Purpose can help
For over 20 years, IOP has been helping companies of all sizes with their purpose-driven communications, including corporate reporting and ESG storytelling. Our strategy, content, digital and creative teams are ready to help you define and tell your ESG/Sustainability story and meet your reporting goals. Feel free to email us, we’re happy to discuss the possibilities.