Blog 23.08.17

Never a dull moment - Three ways to maximize the impact of your sustainability report

How sustainable are you? This is what everyone wants to know from your sustainability report. Customers, co-workers, shareholders and NGOs seek to understand how your company helps tackle global challenges such as the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet how many reports are actually read and remembered? By its own reckoning, nearly a third of World Bank reports are never read, and the World Bank spends a quarter of its country services budget on knowledge products! Don’t let your report simply be another PDF documenting water reductions and carbon emissions that is quickly forgotten. Ensure you create a memorable report that builds a closer stakeholder community.

This blog explores how three companies used their annual reports to engage customers and co-workers as well as deliver those important annual stats.

1) Natural Powers

Solar power company Austria Solar illuminated how to make reports engaging back in 2011. The company’s Annual Report looks completely blank until you read it outside in the sun. Perhaps a little inconvenient for cloudy Britain (even in August!) but definitely unforgettable. Plus who doesn’t enjoy an excuse to sit in the park? Yet the reason we love this report is that it reflects what Austria Solar do best – harness the power of the sun.

Sustainability reporting is about showcasing your companies’ progress. Report design can highlight your greatest successes. Taking this example, if your company has achieved admirable gains in renewable energy why not use solar powered graphics to highlight this? Design can be engaging and functional. Full marks, Austria Solar, on producing a report we really want a hard copy of!

Takeaway: Report design is an opportunity to show (not tell) what your company has achieved.

2) Bang on Trend

We saw it in Vogue, temporary tattoos are in. Website hosting company Flywheel got trendy with their 2015 Annual Report. Co-founder Tony Noecker got the company logo tattooed to his forearm to celebrate Flywheel’s success. Taking this inspiration, Flywheel designed six tattoos depicting key 2015 achievements and anecdotes. These (temporary) tattoos structure the report but are also available to customers to order for free. Our favourite is the axe depicting Flywheel’s stance on malware! (For the record, they’re against).

Sustainability communications are about connecting with diverse groups of stakeholders. They can showcase the personable, individual side of your company. Flywheel’s tattoos are not only fun, they enable customers and co-workers to feel involved in the company’s culture and connected to their co-founder. What can you say about your brand through your sustainability report that involves stakeholders? Tattoos are just one option…

Takeaway: Reports should showcase company values and identity to build a closer stakeholder community.

3) Get Graphic

Another web company. Another report. But you won’t feel that way when you click through crowdfunding company Kickstarter’s 2016 Annual Report. The lesson for sustainability reporting is how Kickstarter puts service users at the heart of their report. Eye-catching graphics tell user success stories that are easy to share on social media. A good balance is struck between seriousness and fun – decking out London’s Clapham Common station with cat adverts is clearly a major 2016 breakthrough!

Kickstarter makes users feel proud of their achievements on a personal level. Sustainability strategies often include a focus on enabling customers, co-workers and communities to live healthy, environmentally-friendly lifestyles. Report progress towards these aims that unite your business and stakeholders in a way that makes customers and co-workers feel part of your success. Expand brand recognition by enabling customers to easily share successes online.

Takeaway: Involve stakeholders in successes and enable them to share achievements.

What’s the lesson here? Yes, sustainability reports are a record of progress against company goals. Their job is to report how your company is performing against voluntary sustainability standards and legal requirements. They should be honest, clear and concise. But this functional purpose doesn’t mean they can’t be engaging. With a bit of creative thinking, they are an opportunity to build your brand and strengthen support for your sustainability strategy. Before you craft your next PDF, why not consider if you are making the most of your sustainability report?


Image credits (in order of appearance): Verband Austria Solar Report, Service Plan; 2015 Year in Review, Flywheel; C.A.T.S., Kickstarter.

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