Planning a sustainability Report

Holding a report publication

Planning a Sustainability Report

The essential steps for planning your report in 2021

Holding a report publication

What is a Sustainability Report?
Before we can get into a discussion of how to plan a sustainability report, it’s important to understand what they are and why they’re important.

A sustainability report is a report typically published annually or biannually by an organization that details its performance in areas of social, environmental, or governmental concern. Sustainability reports also usually detail the organization’s long- and short-term goals when it comes to improving this performance.

Planning your report whether its for sustainability or Financial or other.

Business woman arms crossed

These reports typically aim to inform stakeholders about the operational risks associated with the company and its efforts to mitigate them.

Close-up icons and infographics

Why are Sustainability Reports Important?

Currently, fifteen countries require corporate sustainability reporting. However, in all fifteen of these countries, the requirement is enforced for large companies and corporations. That means SMEs are off the hook for publishing information on their sustainability.

Corporate Emissions SME's 53% vs Larger Corporations 47%

Plan to use factual information wherever possible
Consider SMEs’ role contribution to climate change. Recent studies show that SMEs are responsible for 53% of corporate greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Convert data to infographics?
Given the fact that between 95% and 99% of businesses worldwide are classified as SMEs, this could be considered a promising statistic. Regardless, SMEs contribute the majority of greenhouse gasses emissions and must therefore play a key role in reducing them.

Digital Branding Agency
We can’t just consume our way into a more sustainable world..” @ecowarriorprincess

Understanding the impact your company causes:
Sustainability reports represent a major step in the right direction for any company hoping to lessen its negative impact on the world. As the saying goes: you can’t fix what you don’t understand. Sustainability reports allow companies to fully understand their various impacts.

The cost of not investing in sustainability
From an economic standpoint, consumers are beginning to seek out sustainable brands. According to a survey from early 2021, 1 in 3 consumers claims to have stopped purchasing from a brand or company due to sustainability concerns. The same survey also revealed that lack of information is the leading cause of these concerns.

What does that mean, you ask?
It means that even if your business is highly sustainable, consumers may pass over you if they can’t find confirmation. A sustainability report provides all the information they could ever need in a single, easy-to-read document.

Determine Your Goals
As with any report, the first step in the planning stage should be determining what your goals are for the project. Having a clear picture of your motivations, goals, and intentions from the outset will translate into a report that’s clear, coherent and meaningful.
If you’re struggling to think of goals that will guide your report in the right direction, here are a few to consider:

Bottom line

Building in Functionality

Building in Functionality
Your report should be ambitious but action-oriented. It can sometimes be tempting to set unreasonable targets or suggest implausible initiatives. This is a detriment to the quality of the report and its beneficial outcomes.
Your report should present all the data. As we discussed above, the more data and information you include the better. So long as it’s relevant, that is.
Your report should be transparent. This means admitting your weaknesses, failures, and mistakes and putting forth robust improvement plans.
Your report should include stakeholders. If you want to produce a report that’s balanced and accurate you’ll need to include people in all areas of your operations in the research process.

While this list is not exhaustive, it should help get you used to thinking of actionable goals for planning your report.

Defining Sustainability

Once you have an initial list of goals you can move on to the next step in the planning process: defining sustainability. This might seem like a step so obvious that it doesn’t bear mentioning, but it’s important nonetheless.

The definition of sustainability you use might vary depending on any number of factors. For example, ‘being sustainable’ means something entirely different to a large auto manufacturer than it does to a small architecture firm because of differences in things like size, materials used, expenses, and people employed.

Definition for sustainability

Sustainability means different things to different organisations

Your definition of sustainability is crucial to your sustainability report design plan. Maybe it will involve focusing on green initiatives like recycling or reducing waste. Maybe it will involve addressing employee welfare issues. Thinking about sustainability in the context of your business is key to arriving at a meaningful definition.

Choosing a Framework

Once you’ve identified what your sustainability report aims to achieve and defined sustainability in the context of your business, you’re ready to choose a framework for your report.

Sustainability reporting is a relatively new phenomenon. As such, it is constantly evolving. Several reporting standards and benchmarks have been developed over the past 20 years, and choosing between them can be difficult.

Ideally, the framework you select should depend on the scope of the report, its intended audience, and its objectives. Generally, companies choose one of two frameworks: the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards or the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) standards.
Of the two, the GRI standards are far more popular. Over 87% of published sustainability reports reference the benchmark and guidelines provided by the GRI standards. They are comprehensive, up-to-date, and applicable to businesses of any size.

Privacy and Security

Privacy and Security 

Develop a Research Strategy
With your standards selected, it’s time to begin planning the research for your report. Depending on the size of your business and the complexity of your supply chain this might be a complicated process that involves meeting with numerous stakeholders.

It’s often helpful to begin by ‘mapping’ your business’s supply chain and chain of command. Include department heads, suppliers, branch managers – anyone who is in charge of a significant portion of your operations.

Plan meetings with these key stakeholders to familiarize them with the benchmarks you’ll be compared against and work collaboratively to developing a research plan. You’ll need to rely on their knowledge and input if you want to produce a quality report.

Writing the Report

With the planning out of the way, you’re finally ready to begin writing your sustainability report. If you’re still not sure where to begin, don’t worry! There are detailed guides available on our website on how to plan your sustainability report.
Still confused? Hiring a sustainability report writer might be the best way forward. At Sandpaper, we provide comprehensive sustainability reports for UAE and sustainability report design services.

Sustainability Report Design and publication can vary a lot in price, however, as a rough guide, you can count the number of pages. A per-page rate is a common way to cost not only a book, brochure, but report publication too. Get a previous year’s report for a comparison of page numbers.


About the Author

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Based in Dubai for over 10years, Peter Caush is the founder of and
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.

About Sandpaper

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 a stay ahead of its competition; by developing and adapting to changes in both the global and local corporate landscape in the United Arab Emirates.

Sustainability, Financial, Impact Report planning -through- publication

Sustainability Reports, Annual Reports 9075%
Report planning, research, collating, drafting, copywriting, proofing 5075%
Concept creation, layout design, infographics, photography 7075%

View the latest work Sandpaper has designed and published as interactive.