Maximizing the Impact of Your Sustainability Report: 5 Tips

2/3/20233 min read

Assess Your Company's and Stakeholders' Priorities

Prioritizing the most critical sustainability issues for your business and stakeholders is key to a successful sustainability report. With numerous sustainability topics to consider, it can be a challenge to determine the most relevant ones.Materiality analysis, which involves identifying and prioritizing sustainability issues, is a valuable tool for simplifying the complex sustainability landscape and determining the issues of highest priority to your business. Our recent materiality insights can provide more information on conducting a comprehensive materiality assessment and determining your most crucial business priorities. A well-crafted report should center around these priority issues, with those deemed most important given more prominence in the report.

Track and Evaluate Performance

Evaluating your performance is a critical aspect of comprehensive sustainability reporting and should, wherever possible, be quantifiable. To measure performance accurately, you must first identify the appropriate metrics and KPIs for your organization that align with your strategy and key priorities. Establishing targets and goals, with short, medium, and long-term objectives, will help you track your performance over time.When reporting on your performance, it's important to present a balanced view that reflects your key impacts. Selectively reporting only the positive KPIs and ignoring areas of improvement undermines the credibility and transparency of the report. To ensure consistent measurement and comparison with previous years, consider including a performance table in your report that covers all of your impact areas. This provides a clear and straightforward way to report on performance.

Examine Reporting Frameworks and Contextual Factors

Sustainability is inherently shaped by its surrounding environment and society. When preparing your sustainability report, it's crucial to present performance in relation to the broader limits and demands placed on the environment and society. For instance, what is your company's role in a low-carbon world, and how does it address human rights and reduce inequalities in its operations ? Several frameworks exist to help companies achieve these goals. For example, companies can utilize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to determine how their business can contribute to a better world. Additionally, setting greenhouse gas reduction targets in accordance with climate science through Science-Based Targets can help ensure that the company is playing its part in preventing global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees. Another option is to align with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the most widely-used sustainability reporting standards worldwide. The GRI Standards provide organizations with guidance on how to understand and communicate their impact on critical sustainability issues and require the reporting of performance in a wider context, including communication of impacts and contributions within relevant geographic contexts.

Highlight Authentic Engagement, Beyond Compliance

Having a sustainability report doesn't guarantee a genuine dedication to sustainability, which can be evident in the report itself. So, how can you demonstrate a true commitment to sustainability beyond regulatory compliance and prioritize it over financial gains?Firstly, sustainability should be closely tied to the company's vision, mission, and business strategy. Integrating sustainability into the core of the business not only strengthens the credibility of the report, but it also allows sustainability efforts to align with commercial and strategic goals.Sustainability should be a priority at the board level, with strong support from management. A statement from the CEO or a high-level executive in the report can highlight this commitment, but it should also be reflected in the governance structures to ensure it's being upheld in practice.The report should also address environmental and social risks and opportunities, including how the company is managing these risks and any financial impact. In the World Economic Forum's annual risk report, ESG-related risks now account for nearly all of the world's top risks in terms of impact and likelihood. Ignoring or downplaying these risks can have significant negative effects on a business, and the report should reflect this.

Select Appropriate Platforms for Your Target Groups

Ensure effective communication with your audience by selecting the appropriate channels. Your sustainability report is an important aspect of your overall communications strategy, but to maximize impact and reach, consider incorporating sustainability messaging and successes into other platforms such as your website, annual report, social media, and internal memos. This broadens your audience and increases engagement with stakeholders. It is also crucial to remember that sustainability reporting is not limited to the production of an annual report. The entire process, from setting priorities and assessing risks to collecting KPIs and aligning with frameworks like the SDGs, strengthens your sustainability and responsible business practices, and promotes transparency and trust among key stakeholders.