Written by Karen Lickteig, Communications Chair for B Local PDX
Resources courtesy of Morgan Rider, Grady Britton
Corporate reporting on Impact, Sustainability, Triple-Bottom-Line, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and/or Transparency metrics can be a powerful tool for companies to share their progress and goals in these areas. It can help communicate progress and goals to stakeholders, shareholders, employees, partners, and customers. Many companies, large and small, choose to produce an annual report reporting on key sustainability or impact metrics. B Corp Certification and the B Impact Assessment can provide an excellent framework for these types of reports, and many Certified B Corporation companies may choose to include their B Corp score and key data from the assessment in their reports.
There are many reasons why a company would choose to produce a Sustainability or Impact Report. According to the Global Reporting Initiative:
Sustainability reporting can help organizations to measure, understand and communicate their economic, environmental, social and governance performance, and then set goals, and manage change more effectively. A sustainability report is the key platform for communicating sustainability performance and impacts – whether positive or negative.
Where to Start in Reporting?
Are you in charge of producing an impact or sustainability report for your company, or thinking about doing so? A company’s first Impact or Sustainability Report can be a daunting challenge. It can be difficult to figure out where to start.
Start Small & Simple
If you’re tackling your first report at a smaller organization, we recommend starting small and picking a few key metrics that you can gather and report on. If you start too big, you can easily get overwhelmed by what you are not able to report on, and your report may not get done! Choose a framework, make an outline, gathering key stakeholders and metrics, and set a deadline for completion with your team.
Know Your Audience
Who are your writing this report for? Do you have a consumer brand, and are you able to use the report with your customers as a marketing tool? Are you producing a report mainly for your own colleagues or company employees? Are you fundraising or looking for investors you want to communicate to and show that your business can be a force for good, as well as financially viable? Think about who your audience is, how you can connect with them, and what metrics and formats will be most relevant to them.
Make it Human
When starting out, don’t forget that your company is made up of humans, your audience is going to be humans, so there should be a human element to your report! Think of how you can communicate narratives and the human element of your company through your report. Many companies have stories or anecdotes sprinkled through their reports, include articles or qualitative data, or a note to the reader directly from the CEO or organizational leader. Including data about your employees and what makes your company a great place to work, whether it’s in the form of quantitative or qualitative data, is a great way to humanize your report.
Choosing a Framework
If you’ve set out to produce a sustainability or impact report, you’ll also want to choose a framework to guide how you write and produce your report. This framework can help you determine what metrics to report on and how to structure your report.
B Impact Assessment - The structure of the BIA can be a great framework for your report. And, if you’ve gone through the assessment recently, you likely also have gathered great data in the process that you can pull through into your report. The BIA’s sections - - could be great sub-topics inside of your report.
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) - The GRI is an independent international organization that has helped businesses and governments understand and communicate their impact through sustainability reporting since 1997. They have standards for reporting when it comes to climate change, human rights, governance and social well-being. Watch a 2-minute video on the GRI standards.
Your Own Framework - Your company’s report is its own, so you shouldn’t feel limited or confined by a third-party standard or framework. They can be helpful starting points, but don’t need to be the end point for your report. You can create your own framework or outline to structure and guide your reporting. For example, many companies have core values or elements of their mission, and use these as a structure for their report.
Another great place to start is to look at other companies’ reports for inspiration. We’ve gathered a few good ones here for reference. As you can see, these reports vary widely in content and formats. There’s simply not one accepted way to produce this kind of report, and some of the most effective reports we’ve seen may take a very unconventional approach!
|Brand Name||B Corp (Y/N)||Report Title||Theme or Framework||Highlights|
|Annie's Organic||N||2018: Farm to Yum|
2017: Sustainability Highlights
|Values/Mission||2017's report is short, simple and updated from previous years. It reviews and goes off similar metrics that used in years prior. 2018 goes more in depth using mission-based company goals as a structure.|
|Nutiva||N||Social and Environmental Responsibility Report 2017||No clear Framework, uses certifications & values||Quick easy facts and infographics; consumer friendly, clearly showing some major highlights.|
|Patagonia||Y||Environmental + Social Initiatives 2017||Causes & Initiatives||The large report reads like a magainze, and focuses on a few key programs or initiatives within each bucket of work. Beautiful graphics makes it easy for consumers to flip through, go in-depth and appreciate the work.|
|Method||Y||Greenskeeping||What We Do / How We Do It / Who We Are||Not a sustainability report, but their toolkit. They clearly articulate their work and how it comes to life.|
|Seventh Generation||Y||Transparency in Action: Corporate Consciousness Report 2017||Uses key values or "Aspirations" as section headers||Loved that they have a separate drop down for reporting. They have a great 2017 highlights section, which are short and sweet snippets.|
|Heineken||N||Let's Be Frank||N/A||This video of a spoken-word poem is totally original, creative, and captivating - and still manages to get across key information on Heineken's sustainability initiatives.|
|Organic Valley||N||Sustainability [Landing Page]||N/A||This dynamic Sustainability landing page allows readers to dig deeper into various stories and practices.|
|Warby Parker||Y||Make-Your-Own Annual Report||N/A||Not a sustainability report, but a totally out-of-the-box, interactive annual report. Click through a few questions to generate a personal annual report.|
|Dandelion Chocolate||N||2016 Sourcing Report||Supply Chain-Oriented||This sourcing report is all about transparency and telling the stories of the chocolate's origins.|
|Kathmandu Limited||N||Sustainability Report [2015-18]||Key Initiatives||This outdoor apparel company's reports (2015-18) combine breathtaking photos of the outdoors, articles on its initiatives, and clean infographics of metrics in a report that reads like a magazine.||Kōkako||N||Sustainability Report||GRI & SDGs||This small, New Zealand-based organic coffee company's sets a high bar for transparency and thoroughness of reporting with attention to third-party guideliens.|
Reports from our B Local PDX Community
Several companies in our local B Corp community have produced sustainability reports. Check them out below:
Beneficial State Bank: 2017 Impact Report (Ten-Year)
Hopworks: 2014 Impact Report
Sustainable Harvest: 2017 Impact Report
Nossa Familia Coffee: 2016 Sustainability Report
Further Resources for Reporting
Free, high quality stock photos under the Creative Commons Zero license:
Canva: Free platform for print & web-friendly graphic design with starter templates and layouts, including infographics and data visualization tools.