How to Write a Sustainability Report

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement has been gaining steam in recent years, as more and more businesses are taking it upon themselves to be good stewards of their local communities and the environment. One important part of CSR is environmental, social, and governance reporting (ESG), which can help companies track their progress in sustainable practices and assess their impact on society. But moreso, they are the benchmark standard to publicly exhibit your sustainability efforts to all of your stakeholders. There is no downside to creating a sustainability report because no matter what the data shows, the fact that you ar making an effort accounts for more than the numbers. If you’re looking to create an ESG report for your company, you are in the right place to begin to understand all of the benefits that come with being accountable in today’s marketplace. So, keep reading!

With over two years of pandemic and the recent invasion of the Ukraine disrupting the world’s economy and the global supply chain, the pressure to shift to a sustainable circular economy is greater that it has ever been. In case you didn’t know, business activities are responsible for 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (ghg) and are therefore under more scrutiny than ever before. That is why every business should know how to write a sustainability report. But not to worry, we have you covered on form and function, and we have you a few immediate things you can do to improve your ESG Score.

What is a sustainability report?

If you are in business, you may suddenly be asked by your clients and other stakeholders, what you are doing to be more sustainable? And that is where an ESG or sustainability report will come in handy. A sustainability report is an effective way to communicate your company’s environmental and social initiatives to interested stakeholders. But more importantly, a sustainability report can help you track your progress and identify risks & opportunities within your company structure. In this blog post, we will outline the key components of a successful sustainability report, offer some tips on how to get started and show you how to improve your score before you even begin your audit. So, strap-in because you are about to become the company expert!

What is the definition of an ESG or sustainability report?

Am ESG or sustainability report is a document that analyzes an organization’s long-term success and prospects for the future. The goal of such a study is to offer stakeholders with enough information so that they can determine if investing in a firm is worthwhile. And when we say investing, we are not only referring to investment for publicly traded companies, but we are also referring to the investment by consumers, partners, governments, the communities you serve and other stakeholders who are directly or indirectly affected by your business practices. And when you start to collate data, you will soon realize that your business is affecting considerable more people that you were previously aware of.

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 will cover your carbon and water footprints.
  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).

*Keep in mind that each industry sector has its own set of standards and benchmarks which are also geographically specific. Compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

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. As an alternative, some companies use their website and social media to make this information available.

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 5 main sections. These include:

1. Strategy and Profile: A high-level overview of the company’s business, including its history, mission, and values.

2. Governance: A description of the company’s board of directors and management team.

3. Performance: A detailed account of the company’s financial and operational performance.

4. Sustainability: A description of the company’s environmental and social performance.

5. Outlook: A description of the company’s plans for the future.

Each section includes a variety of data points and performance indicators. The exact data points will vary depending on the company’s size, industry, and location.

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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. They 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. It includes 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. The focus of which to encourage more sustainable practices among employees, investors, consumers and communities.

  • Details should be provided on how to read the report, including what is included in each category. There should also be a glossary of editorial terms used throughout the document. Companies should also provide information about any benchmarking. For instance 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. It should include 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.

Don’t forget….

  • 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, explain 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. This includes 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. It will also include 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.

How to Identify and analyze key sustainability indicators to measure progress

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, you may want to provide more detail on how sustainability affects the business.

7 Steps to Writing a Good Sustainability Report 

  1. Conduct a Materiality Assessment: This entails outlining the key issues and impacts that your organization experiences. Make sure to include environmental, social, and economic factors in your assessment so that you can achieve a holistic view of your operations.
  2. Assess Current State (Baseline): Perform an internal audit to establish a baseline of your organization’s sustainability performance. This will help you to identify improvement opportunities and track progress over time.
  3. Set Objectives & Targets: After conducting a materiality assessment and understanding your company’s baseline performance, you can set realistic objectives and targets for sustainability improvement.
  4. Analyze Gaps to Achieving Future State: This step involves analyzing the difference between your current performance and desired future state. Doing so will help you to identify priority areas for improvement.
  5. Develop ESG Strategies, Roadmap and Framework: After gaps have been identified, you can develop strategies and initiatives to address them. Make sure that your plans are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  6. Implement and Monitor Initiatives: Once your strategies and initiatives have been developed, it’s time to put them into action. Regularly monitoring your progress will help you to stay on track towards achieving your sustainability goals.
  7. Reporting & Communicating Results: Finally, it is important to report on the results of your sustainability efforts in order to communicate progress to stakeholders. This will help build trust and confidence in your organization’s ability to create lasting positive change.

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, water usage, 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. Of course, there are software solutions available to streamline the collection and correlation of data. To get started, just Get the Checklist! ⬆️

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 the 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.

For instance, If you take action on environmental performance or social reorganization, you can 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.

Sustainability Report FAQ

What is ESG Marketing?

Environmental, social, and governance marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on the long-term sustainability of an organization. The goal of ESG marketing is to create greater public awareness about the current state of our environment and social issues. It might also provide sustainable solutions that help businesses remain socially and environmentally responsible. This type of marketing emphasizes the importance of ethical practices in corporate operations. It also focuses on efforts to reduce the impact business activities have on the environment. By taking into consideration multiple facets when making decisions, businesses can ensure their actions are responsible. This will also reflect positively on their organizational values. Additionally, by focusing on different aspects like environmental protection, labor rights, human health, and consumer safety in their operations. Companies can benefit from improved brand loyalty and positive consumer perception.

What is ESG Software?

ESG software is an online tool used by organizations to measure their environmental, social and governance performance. The software utilizes a range of metrics such as carbon emissions, water use, employee training programs or diversity initiatives to evaluate the company’s sustainability practices. Companies can use this data to inform decisions around where improvements need to be made within their operations. Through this software companies are able to gain visibility into how far they’ve come in terms of improving sustainability standards over time as well as specific areas for further improvement. Additionally, ESG software also helps organizations report their progress towards various targets to stakeholders or investors who may be interested in understanding a company’s commitment towards sustainability goals.

What is Sustainability Software?

Sustainability software is a type of technology which helps organizations measure and manage their environmental performance across different areas such as energy usage or waste production. By utilizing this software companies are able to track data related to their resources consumption throughout different stages in the production process. This enables them to identify any areas for improvement or opportunities for greater efficiency when it comes to resource management. Additionally sustainability software allows organizations to set goals related to reducing emissions or other forms of pollution with measurable performance markers so that progress can be tracked over time. Organizations often integrate these tools into existing systems so that all relevant employees can view up-to-date information regarding performance against set targets or benchmarks related to sustainable practice objectives across departments or subsidiaries worldwide.

What is a Supplier Sustainability Scorecard?

A supplier sustainability scorecard is an assessment tool used by organizations for evaluating suppliers based on criteria related to corporate social responsibility (CSR). It measures performance along several pillars. These include environmental/resource management practices; working conditions; diversity & inclusion policies. It also includes customer service; ethics & compliance; reputation & trustworthiness. Also financial stability/resilience among others according to predetermined criteria set forth by the organization itself or industry standards applicable in its sector/region etcetera. By utilizing these scorecards companies are able to identify strong performing suppliers who meet its expectations. While also highlighting areas where particular suppliers may need improvement in order build more sustainable supply chains. Thereby increasing its level of trustworthiness among customers & stakeholders alike over time.

Terms and Definitions

  • ESG Report Design: ESG report design is the process of creating a professionally written document. It should provide insight into an organization’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. It typically includes graphics, tables, charts and other visuals that provide context and meaningful data. The design also helps to create a narrative of the company’s overall sustainability story.
  • ESG Report Development: ESG report development is the process of collecting, analyzing, reporting on and disseminating data. Typically it will be related to an organization’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. This involves the creation of metrics to measure these categories as well as research into industry-specific sustainability standards. A successful ESG report will help an organization communicate their commitment to responsible practices in a credible way.
  • Best Sustainability Report Design: Best sustainability report design is the practice of creating reports detailing an organization’s sustainability practices and performance in a visually captivating and easily understandable way. Components such as videos, photos, text content and creative graphics are used to illustrate key messages in order to make them more impactful for readers. Reports should use a consistent style throughout in order to effectively communicate the company’s sustainability efforts over time.
  • CSR Reporting Best Practices: CSR reporting best practices focus on ensuring accuracy in corporate social responsibility (CSR). The reports also helping organizations present their CSR initiatives effectively. These best practices include: regularly updating data with current figures; emphasizing transparency; providing clear evidence for claims made; utilizing visuals and graphics; writing concisely; focusing on stakeholder engagement; leveraging third-party validation where applicable; considering different formats for different stakeholders; ensuring alignment with global standards; regularly reviewing existing processes against these practices; and integrating feedback from various stakeholders into future reports.

Caveats and Disclaimers

We have covered many topics in this article. We want to be clear that any reference to, or mention of external stakeholders, supply chain, or brand loyalty. Also strategic goals, environmental goals, data collection, key areas and material issues. Or press release, sustainability, large companies, write a report, business, decision making, reporting, companies, environmental. With a wide variety of example on sustainable dev to discuss and create objectives or tips for employees. Or find targets for investment based on governance data and industry risks. To write a CSR report detailing commitment to costs for a project on the environment and accountability is critical for businesses. Trends in the context of this article are purely for informational purposes and not to be misconstrued with investment advice or personal opinion.

We have covered many topics in they article. We hope that you have found it useful and we appreciate you stopping by. We wish you luck in your quest for sustainability, whether personal life or business life or through ESG investing. Remember, we are all in this together, truly. Thank you for reading.

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Author Bio

Research & Curation

Dean Emerick is a curator on sustainability issues with ESG The Report, an online resource for professionals focusing on ESG principles. Their primary goal is to provide resources to help middle market companies, SMEs and SMBs transition to a more sustainable future.


Author Bio

Research & Curation

Dean Emerick is a curator on sustainability issues with ESG The Report, an online resource for professionals focusing on ESG principles. Their primary goal is to provide resources to help middle market companies, SMEs and SMBs transition to a more sustainable future.