Let’s Reimagine the Sustainability Report

Jay Geneske Partner

Each year, more and more companies reach out to us for help with their sustainability report. Since we’re in the business of helping purpose-driven organizations maximize their impact, we can easily spot the businesses whose CSR, corporate citizenship, or sustainability efforts aren’t truly embedded in the organization. Their efforts might be siloed, an afterthought, an apology, or worse—an attempt to distract consumers from the harm they do.

Of course, there’s an increasing number of organizations who are creating positive impact on the environment, on people’s lives and communities, and their businesses’ bottom lines. But they don’t always know the best way to inform their shareholders and stakeholders of their progress.

Enter the sustainability report.

A simple Google search will illustrate the wide variety of approaches to sustainability and corporate citizenship reports—everything from glossy PDFs to interactive microsites. Some pioneering businesses illustrate how their purpose extends to their business bottom line by folding their sustainability efforts into their company annual report. But the one thing that most reports have in common: They are released annually, frozen in time.

Sure, there are business and legal reasons to publish an annual update on your sustainability and governance progress, but why hide your efforts in an immediately outdated PDF or microsite?

Sustainability and corporate citizenship isn’t something you do once a year. It’s who you are every day.

Rather than only celebrating what you’ve done, what if your sustainability report could also illustrate what you are capable of accomplishing?”

Here are a few questions to consider to reimagine your report:

  • The data in these reports are typically old news. What if every piece of content had to be newsworthy–and in fact make news, like a new initiative launched, a major milestone reached, or an audacious goal that you’re committing to  achieving this year?
  • What if you infused your sustainability goals directly into your products or services? Let’s say you’re on a mission to get your entire supply chain to move to renewables. Tell that story to your consumers at the point of purchase. Even better, tell them what they can do to help you.
  • What if you reframed the annual report as a year-long campaign? Maybe twelve documentary-shorts, or a hundred pieces of multi-channel content stitched together over the course of a year—the sum of which equals a legacy in the making?

Sustainability is who you are, not what you do. So, don’t hide your efforts in a report few will read and a year after the fact. Focus on what you’re doing now instead of only reflecting on what happened last year. Rather than saving up all of the good stories for the end-of-year look-back, activate the conversation today.

Don’t wait until the end of this year to plan your sustainability report. Get started today. Drop me a line—I’d love to chat.

You’ll know you’re doing it right when, at the end of the year, you’ll see you’ve been telling the sustainability story all year long.