The world of sustainability reporting (also called CSR, environmental, corporate responsibility, or impact reporting) is growing exponentially. It is nearly ubiquitous among the Fortune 500, and growing in all industries thanks to the pressure of investors (like BlackRock), the public, and governments. This trend has even reached the level of regulatory requirement in some countries. For example, since early 2001, France has required triple bottom line reporting for firms over 500 employees.
It's clear that if you are looking for the best way to measure and communicate your corporate environmental and social performance to a broad group of stakeholders, sustainability reporting is the best format. But what do you need to include in your reports?
Before we begin our top five environmental report must-haves, it is worth mentioning that there are no legal requirements for what to include in your reports in most places. There are generally accepted practices, including SASB and GRI, but you can choose to develop and refine your own format if you choose.
The top 5 things that all sustainability reports should have
1. A Story
Creating a guiding narrative is important to any good report, but especially when it comes to environmental and social performance. By this, I don't mean a narrative per se, but a greater purpose of the report. This document is merely a glimpse into the wide world of sustainability at your organization. Tie your initiatives in to your purpose, mission, and vision for the future.
2. Letter from the CEO and/or CSO
It is very important to demonstrate executive leadership & buy-in for corporate sustainability. By having a statement from the top leadership that environmental management is a priority, you demonstrate that this is not simply a marketing move, but an organizational shift. It is best to have statements both from the CEO and from the head of the environmental department (eg. CSO).
3. Sustainability mission, approaches, and strategy
This is where you have a chance to lay out the why of your sustainability report. What is the mission of your environmental department? What are the goals? How are you integrating this work into your larger corporate mission? What strategies are you using to get this job done? It is worth clearly laying out all this information so the reader understands the motivation behind the work. It is also a good opportunity to remind the reader that this is not greenwashing, but a true organizational priority for the long term.
4. Company targets
By this point, you should have objectives for emissions reduction, waste diversion, fossil fuel management, financial portfolio transition, etc. These should all be disclosed in the report, along with the deadlines and progress towards them. Year to year, these are a good way for you and your readers to track the success of your initiatives as you work towards higher goals.
5.Your corporate initiatives
This is the bulk of the report. Here is your opportunity to describe in detail the variety of projects, initiatives, employee engagement days, and other tactics you have used to build a culture of sustainability at your organization. It is good to note the goals of each and the success achieved as a result of the initiative.
If you include all of these elements, you are sure to have a professional, informative report. However, depending on your company, industry, and experience in environmental business you may choose to disclose more.
There's an old expression: "You manage what you measure". We like to add, "You do what you disclose". This report is a good opportunity to show your shareholders, employees, customers, and the world the good work you're doing to reduce you environmental footprint.