As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, corporate transparency on environmental, social, and governance issues is becoming increasingly important for stakeholders. As a result, many companies are turning to sustainability reports—documents that attempt to communicate a company’s environmental, social, and governance performance to the public.
But what makes a good sustainability report? How can you ensure that your report is informative? How do you go about writing a sustainability report people will read?
These are the questions we’ll be focusing on in this Sandpaper guide. We’ll be explaining the steps we take to help companies like yours create informative, engaging sustainability reports that will earn the trust of your stakeholders.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Define Your Objectives & Key Stakeholders
Every sustainability report is defined by two things—its objectives and the key stakeholders it’s communicating with. So, it makes sense that your sustainability reporting journey needs to begin with an understanding of these two elements.
Objectives are the goals that you want your report to achieve.
Do you want to communicate your company’s commitment to sustainability? Showcase your progress on specific environmental, social, and governance goals? Educate stakeholders about the work your company is doing to make a positive impact?
Your objectives will shape the entire report, so it’s important to take the time to think about what you want to accomplish. If you elect to (or are required to) use a reporting framework, so objectives will come packaged in. Beyond that, you’re free to choose objectives that make the most sense for your company.
When writing your sustainability report you need to defined your objectives, it’s time to think about who you’re trying to reach with your report.
Your key stakeholders are the people who care about what you’re doing—and, more importantly, who will be reading your report. This could be anyone from shareholders and employees to environmentalists and consumers.
There are a number of methods you can use to identify and prioritize key stakeholders, including:
- Power-Interest Matrices: Stakeholders are placed on a grid according to their level of interest in and power over your company. This helps you to determine which stakeholders are most important to focus on.
- Mapping: This involves creating a visual representation of your stakeholders. This can help you to identify relationships and commonalities between different groups.
- Interviews: This involves conducting interviews with individuals within and outside of your organization. This can help you to identify the perspectives of different stakeholders.
2. Choose A Reporting Framework
Reporting frameworks are essentially a set of guidelines that you can use to structure your sustainability report. When writing your sustainability report many companies choose to use reporting frameworks because they provide a level of standardization and ensure that all the important elements are included.
The three most popular reporting frameworks are:
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): The GRI is the most widely used sustainability reporting framework in the world. It’s also one of the most comprehensive, covering a broad range of environmental, social, and governance topics.
- Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB): The SASB focuses on providing guidance for companies in specific industries. This makes it a good choice for companies that want to drill down into sector-specific issues.
- Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): The TCFD focuses on providing guidance for companies on climate-related risks and opportunities. This makes it a good choice for companies that want to focus on environmental issues.
The framework you choose will depend on the conclusions you came to in step one. For more guidance on choosing a framework based on your objectives and key stakeholders, check out this guide.
3. Choose Indicators and KPIs
Indicators and KPIs are the tools you’ll use to measure progress, demonstrate compliance, and benchmark your company against your industry.
There are two main types of indicators:
- Leading indicators: These are indicators that show whether your company is on track to achieve its objectives. For example, a leading indicator for reducing greenhouse gas emissions might be the percentage of renewable energy in your company’s electricity mix.
- Lagging indicators: These are indicators that show whether your company has achieved its objectives. For example, a lagging indicator for reducing greenhouse gas emissions might be the total number of metric tons of emissions your company produced over the reporting period.
Some indicators and KPIs will be mandated by regulatory bodies or packaged with the reporting framework you pick. However, you’ll also have the opportunity to pick your own.
4. Collect Data
Once you’ve chosen your indicators and KPIs, it’s time to start collecting data. Depending on the size and scope of your company, this could be a daunting task when writing your sustainability report.
There are a few things you can do to make data collection easier, including:
- Automating data collection: This involves using software to automatically collect data from different sources. This can help to eliminate errors and save time.
- Outsourcing data collection: This involves hiring a third-party company to collect data on your behalf. This can be a good option if you don’t have the resources to collect data internally.
- Hiring a data analyst: This involves hiring someone within your company whose job is solely to collect and analyze data. This can be a good option if you have complex data needs.
5. Analyze Data
Once you’ve collected your data, it’s time to start analyzing it. This step will involve looking for trends, identifying risks and opportunities, and setting targets for the future.
There are a few different ways you can analyze data, including:
- Quantitative analysis: This involves using numbers and statistics to analyze data. This is often done with spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel.
- Qualitative analysis: This involves using words and narratives to analyze data. This is frequently done with word processing software, such as Microsoft Word.
6. Write the Report
Now that you’ve collected and analyzed your data, it’s time to start writing the report. The first step is to choose a format. The most common formats are PDFs, online reports, and printed reports.
Once you’ve chosen a format, you’ll need to decide on the structure of your report. The most common structures are:
- Chronological: This is the simplest structure and involves presenting information in chronological order.
- Thematic: This structure organizes information by theme or topic. This can be a good option if you want to focus on specific issues, with possible sections being “Environment”, “Social Impact”, and so on.
- Problem-solution: This structure presents information in a problem-solution format. This can be a good option if you want to highlight how your company is addressing specific issues.
7. Publish the Report
Once you’ve written the report, it’s time to publish it. The most common way to do this is to post it on your company’s website. You can also distribute it via email, social media, or print.
It’s important to remember that sustainability reporting is an ongoing process. You’ll need to update your report on a regular basis to ensure that it remains accurate and relevant.
How Sandpaper Can Help
When writing your sustainability report use a guide to support your project. Sustainability reporting can be a daunting task, but it’s important to remember that it’s an ongoing process. By following these seven steps, you can ensure that your report is accurate and informative.
And if you’re looking for more guidance, Sandpaper can help. We offer a range of services, including sustainability reporting, that can help your business to meet its environmental, social, and governance obligations.
Contact us today to learn more.
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Based in Dubai for over 10 years, Peter is the founder of Sandpaperme.com and TheSchoolAgency.com.
A trusted authority on digital marketing Peter is passionate about helping SME’s grow their business in the Gulf region.
When he’s not in the office Peter enjoys playing squash, often more times than his knees can cope.
At Sandpaper We have been around long enough to realize the importance of good report writing, research, and design. A thoroughly planned and executed report builds loyalty and trust among stakeholders.
In the 10 years of service, Sandpaper has managed to adapt to changes in both the global and local corporate landscape in the United Arab Emirates.
Annual Reports : Sustainability/Environmental, Financial/AGM, Impact and special focus.
View the latest work Sandpaper has designed and published.