How to leverage the content beyond the sustainability report

4 october 2020

This blog is part of The Terrace’s series on Reporting for Positive Change. Sustainability reporting can be a vital process to support the sustainability strategy within in a company. Yet often, this isn’t the case. Companies report on positive change – rather than reporting for positive change. Every year we support many companies and other organizations on their sustainability reporting journey. In this blog series, we share key learnings – from across our reporting projects and clients.

Once the sustainability report has been created and approved, it’s time to really communicate about the report (content). This is a key step that is sometimes overlooked. Unless you created the sustainability report only for compliance reasons (or to prop up your computer screen), involve your communications teams and channels to proudly share your results and your report.

Go back to your reason why for creating a sustainability report in the first place. Who are the key people you want to reach? Will they read a full report, or do you need to create bite size portions or a summary to engage them? Can you create short social media items to share report highlights and/or draw people to the report? That also makes it easier for your employees to share stories they are personally proud of.

And just like the full report content, this is a perfect opportunity to look forward and share your ambitions, rather than only looking back. And strive for balance, sharing what went well and what you’ve learned from things that didn’t go so well.

Last but not least, you took months to create the report, so make sure you create a nice drumbeat to share parts of the sustainability report with key stakeholders in the weeks (or even months) after its release.

“To create awareness for the sustainability strategy, we launched the report with an event at our headquarters,” says Cecile Theunissen, Sustainability Manager at Appèl Catering. “To reach our restaurant teams, we also launched a series of short posts on our internal online platform. This generated many positive reactions, questions and ideas!” Yvette Moll, Communications Director at retailer Action shares: “For most employees and consumers the English full Update2019 is quite a tough read. So we created summary pages in our local languages to share the key results with these important stakeholders.”

Once the report content has been communicated, it’s time to evaluate and celebrate. Start by collecting reactions from readers and key people in the organization. What do they like about the sustainability report? And where do they see room for improvement?

Then get the core team together to reflect on the reporting journey. What went well? What did we learn from the things that did not go as well as we expected? How can we make the process easier next year? And to avoid the time crunch at the end of the process, when should we start the next reporting cycle? Assuming the core team is still on speaking terms at this point in time, don’t forget to go out and celebrate the teamwork and the resulting sustainability report!

“We delivered the 2019 sustainability report in a very condensed timeframe,” says Kelly Rijsdijk of Albert Heijn. “Next year we’ll start earlier and from the evaluation, we also have lots of ideas on how to reduce the reporting burden on key content owners.” Sabrina Simons , Serious Communications Manager at chocolate impact company Tony’s Chocolonely adds: “Every year we do a thorough evaluation of the reporting process. This really helps us raise the bar on the report and improve the process for the years to come.”

This is the final blog in this reporting series. Want more personalized guidance than our blogs provide? Consider joining our reporting webinar (2 Oct) or our reporting workshop (29 Oct) in Amsterdam. 

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