Earth hovering over a newspaper signifying the importance of sustainability reporting

How to Write a Sustainability Report

The purpose behind a sustainability report is to provide investors with enough information so that they can determine if an investment in a particular company will be useful and beneficial to them. The report also helps to give information about management’s abilities and track record so that they can make decisions and it provides the company with a chance to engage their stakeholders better.

The key concepts of an ESG report are transparency, credibility and materiality. The organization should attempt to ensure that it is transparent about its sustainable practices and disclose which metrics are being used to measure its ESG. The organization should have a credible method of reporting which involves disclosing how it calculates its scores for each metric as well as provide any disclaimers about the results. If you would like to know more about what sustainable reporting is or a broader scope of what is to be included in the report, you can find other articles under the G in ESG.

The 3 elements every sustainability report should include

  1. Environmental reports should include information about the company’s effect on the environment, both beneficial and detrimental. This may cover a carbon or water footprint. Each industry sector has its own set of standards.
  2. A social report should feature information regarding how an organization contributes to society through its policies and practices, as well as any innovative initiatives it may have. This may be accomplished by using phrases, figures, and photographs.
  3. A financial report should include a discussion of the company’s financial performance (i.e., turnover or revenue) as well as any investments in innovative methods (such as R&D programs).

How many copies should a sustainability report have?

A company can decide how many copies of its sustainability report to print and distribute, but most companies produce a single copy for each shareholder. The number of shareholders varies from country to country. In the US alone, more than two million people own shares in public companies.

What format does a sustainability report have to be in?

There is no required format for the layout of a company’s environmental report, but most are in an annual or quarterly printed document divided into five main sections, including management information, the environment and climate change, environmental performance review, listings of verifiable environmental claims and green initiatives, and declarations about environmental compliance.

How long should sustainability reports be?

A company’s environmental report may be any length. The World Resources Institute suggests that companies follow the Global Reporting Initiative reporting guidelines, which recommend a maximum of 30 pages for an issue-based annual report. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board publishes the top 20 US corporations ranked by revenue for which it has sustainability data, ranging from 38 to 872 pages. Most companies publish an environmental report at least once per year, but some companies choose to do it quarterly.

The 8 elements a company’s sustainability report should have

A company’s annual or quarterly environmental report can be a powerful tool to help increase its public image and encourage more sustainable practices among employees, investors, customers and communities.

  • Details should be provided on how to read the report, including what is included in each category, along with a glossary of editorial terms used throughout the document. Companies should also provide information about any benchmarking or other non-environmental reports that are produced by experts who have worked for the company’s suppliers or competitors.
  • The company can also provide information about its organization’s structure, including the departments responsible for various environmental activities.
  • Companies should describe their employees’ roles in sustainability activities and give examples of how they are training them to be more sustainable. They may highlight some employees by name, particularly if they have received awards or other special recognition for their actions.
  • Companies can also include information about the company’s board of directors, including a list of all current members and their academic qualifications. They may also provide a statement from a member of the board, indicating his or her commitment to sustainability issues.
  • The report should be written in clear language that is easy for investors or other stakeholders to understand. The executive summary should provide readers with an immediate overview of the report’s main points.
  • The body of the report should be concise, using sections to highlight different aspects. Each section can have a short introduction that provides some context for the information presented in that section, including how it relates to the company’s sustainability goals or other environmental policies.
  • Companies should include a table of contents and references.
  • Information should be presented in a way that is relevant to readers, including stakeholders such as investors or communities where the company operates. Presentation materials, such as photos or graphs, can also help make information more clear and interesting.

What else does a sustainability reporting framework include?

A sustainability report will often include the company’s goals and its news releases, along with information on products or issues that are of particular interest to the public.

The report should also offer a list of materials used in production and distribution, such as packaging and paper for printing. A glossary should be included to help readers understand technical terms.

Information on certification or awards received, such as ISO 14001 or EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme), should also be included.

The report may include information on community outreach programs supported by the company, along with highlights of its corporate giving activities. Corporate social responsibility reports are another useful resource that can be linked to from a sustainability report if they are available.

A company’s annual or quarterly environmental report can be a powerful tool to help increase its public image and encourage more sustainable practices among employees, investors, customers and communities.

Creating stakeholder reports: Finally, companies often find it useful to create separate reporting documents for different stakeholders. This way, each group can read about what’s relevant to them and learn how the business is improving its social and environmental impact.

6 Easy Steps to Writing a Good Sustainability Report

  1. Define the goal of the report
  2. Identify and analyze key sustainability indicators to measure progress
  3. Present findings in a clear, concise way that is easy for stakeholders to understand
  4. Discuss how results compare with targets and goals set out in previous reports
  5. Conclude by summarizing what has been achieved so far and identify next steps for future work 
  6. Include appendices with relevant data or other supporting material as needed

How to Define the goal of the report

First, it’s important to define the goal of your report. This can be achieved by asking yourself who you are writing for and what type of information they need. For example, if you are writing for suppliers or customers, you’ll want to explain more about how stakeholders benefit from your sustainability efforts. If you’re writing primarily for employees, on the other hand, you may want to provide more detail on how sustainability affects the business.

How to Identify and analyze key sustainability indicators to measure progress

Second, identify and analyze key sustainability indicators. These are metrics that can be used to track social or environmental performance over time. Some examples include carbon footprints, waste sent to landfill, number of employees across different demographics or number of staff trained.

Identify who is responsible for tracking each indicator and how often it should be done. Then set targets for the future based on previous reports’ results. This will help you determine whether your goals are realistic and achievable.

How to Present Findings in a Clear, Concise way that is easy for Stakeholders to Understand

Third, don’t assume your stakeholders will read between the lines. If you want them to understand how social and environmental performance has improved, present findings in a clear, concise way that is easy for all readers to understand. Avoid technical jargon and use specific measurements such as quantities or percentages. Avoid using inconsistent metrics, such as one metric for external stakeholders and another for internal stakeholders.

How to Discuss how results compare with targets and goals set out in previous reports

Fourth, how your current results compare with past progress is an important part of reporting. This process will help you identify strengths and weaknesses and determine whether future goals are realistic.

What worked well in the past? Why? What didn’t work? How could you improve your reporting process in the future? What lessons did you learn along the way, and how can you apply them to your upcoming reporting cycle?

How to Conclude by summarizing what has been achieved so far and identify next steps for future work

Fifth, conclude your report by summarizing what you have achieved so far and identifying next steps for future work. For example, if you met targets in one area but missed them in another, detail how this will influence future goals.

If social or environmental performance has improved beyond initial expectations, include a few lines about what has been achieved and how this will impact future goals.

How to Include appendices with relevant data or other supporting material as needed

Finally, include appendices with relevant data or other supporting materials as needed. These might include maps, graphs, charts or tables that clarify key points in your report so readers can understand them more easily. This helps ensure your conclusions are reliable and verifiable.

Caveats and Disclaimers

We have covered many topics in this article and want to be clear that any reference to, or mention of how to write a sustainability report, sustainability report, sustainability reports, sustainability reporting, sustainability reporting framework, sustainability performance, annual sustainability report, external stakeholders, write a sustainability report, sustainable development goals, sustainability issues, sustainable economy, key stakeholders, supply chain, brand loyalty, strategic goals, environmental goals, data collection, key areas, environmental impacts, material issues, press release, sustainability, large companies, write a sustainability, report, business, decision making, reporting, companies, environmental, specific recommendations, progress, relevant, transparency, achieve, performance, assessment, focus, benefits, reports, identify, efforts, processes, process, operations, identifying, writing, governments, insight, challenges, world, wide variety, example, sustainable, discuss, create, objectives, tips, employees, targets, investment, governance, data, industry, write, risks, csr report, commitment, costs, project, environment, accountability, critical, businesses or trends in the context of this article is purely for informational purposes and not to be misconstrued with investment advice or personal opinion. Thank you for reading.