How to create a sustainability report: Practical tips

Tips and practical examples for creating amazing sustainability reports
6 minutes
Index

Who reads sustainability reports?

Let’s face it, few people really read sustainability reports. We’re talking about highly technical documents, generally of over 50 or even 100 pages. 

Making them requires an enormous effort and when you’ve finished you feel that the most difficult part is over. But that’s just the beginning. The good news is that yes, the ‘worst’ is over. Now it’s time to share, enjoy, and interact.

Reporting is never a waste of time or resources. On the contrary, it lays the foundations on which to build. Now you know where you are and maybe you also know where you’ll go from here in terms of sustainability

Take a deep breath and get ready for the next step. The time has come to share and get people involved. With a little effort and creativity you can connect more effectively with your audience, generate more interest, and help get your message out to the world. 

That’s what we do at Ecoavantis. We use all the information and knowledge contained in a sustainability report and turn it into a powerful communication tool. 

Where do I start?

First of all, you’ll need to choose very carefully what to communicate and highlight. Fortunately, the conversation around sustainability and how difficult an issue it is to tackle has become widespread. We are now more open to companies sharing the challenges they’re facing and what they need to improve, rather than just sharing the positive things or how well they are doing.

Sustainability is a journey, and there is no such thing as a totally sustainable company, but rather a continuous path to improvement. Each company must find its own way.

It is very important to be cautious about sustainability claims and declarations, and to avoid greenwashing. We should never make any claims that cannot be fully supported.

Executive summary of a sustainability report (HMTX)

It is very important to have expert knowledge of the subject matter, as you can incur certain risks or simply not be able to select, interpret, and communicate concepts and data appropriately.

Make your sustainability report interactive

If you are targeting a non-specialized audience, your goal will be to create an experience that is more engaging, more interactive, and even more fun. That’s where Genially comes in. 

We must bear in mind that most of the public will not be willing or able to read an 80-page technical report, so it is essential to be creative and think of different alternatives.

One idea is to break the information down into chunks and use an interactive and animated format. The fact is that trying to explain all of your sustainability strategy and last year’s performance indicators in one fell swoop will overwhelm the part of your audience that is less familiar with this type of reporting, as sustainability is a very complex issue.

In this example, you can see how interactivity is used to break the information into parts. Readers can consume the information at their own pace by interacting with the different elements.

Thematic interactive infographics (Nutreco):

 

Make it visual!

Another idea is to make the information as visual as possible. However, before attempting to compile all of your key data in an infographic, think about what people will do with the content, and provide context for the data. Even if it’s a data infographic, it should contain a narrative that takes people from what they know to what they still need to learn

As communicators, it is our responsibility to clarify data, identify trends, uncover patterns, and reveal realities that were not previously apparent. And always avoid oversimplifying your data and messages. Sustainability is not easy and should not be oversimplified.

Data Vis Summary (Ferrovial):

Gamification and sustainability reporting: Even better!

To create change and make your report innovative, you need to generate curiosity. Why not challenge people to play a game based around your sustainability strategy and see what they know or don’t know? 

Game-playing can be an excellent way to pique people’s interest and entertain them while teaching them about important concepts they need to understand to be part of the change that is needed in society and in the workplace.

That’s why we use gamification. Gamification is the implementation of game mechanics in non-game environments. The technique is used in everything from banking systems to fitness devices, and our brains love it. 

The game mechanics motivate us because we have been socially conditioned to respond to rewards and punishments. Gamified rewards such as badges and prizes are strong neurological triggers for human engagement as our brains possess a cocktail of neurochemicals that respond to stimulation. 

To use this to your advantage, you can design mini-games for your team or for your customers and clients. You can base your game on fun facts about your company or on important facts and issues you want to influence.

This mini-game related to content from Nutreco’s sustainability report is a great example:

Your team are your best influencers

And let’s not forget one of the most important groups to inform! Your team.

The reality is that the most reliable source of information about a brand or company is the people who work for it, as highlighted by the Brand Prism research conducted by Long Dash

However, according to the same research, while 86% of employees say they are proud of their work, only half of those surveyed said they would post about their companies on social media. It is critical to tap into this latent group of influencers because: 

  1. You can’t convince the outside world if you can’t convince your team. Without them, the foundation of the message will be weak.  
  2. If you manage to convince them, they can be your best ambassadors. The implications of an engaged workforce are quite powerful. According to a 2020 Gallup study, having a highly engaged workforce generates 20% more sales and 21% more profitability, and there are likely even more benefits that are difficult to measure, especially with regard to sustainability.
  3. If you convince your team, next year’s report and other sustainability projects will be much easier to implement thanks to the collaboration and shared vision you have cultivated.

To achieve this, you can implement internal communication campaigns that build on the information in the sustainability report and apply the techniques mentioned above: make your report visual, and use interactivity and gamification. 

These campaigns can be 100% digital (through the intranet, internal email, or any other media) or complemented with physical formats, depending on the type of activity of your company.

📷 Example: Internal communication campaign for employees (SGS)

Making great sustainability reports with Genially

All these ideas can be easily implemented with Genially, and not just the sustainability report. You can also create a multitude of communication products derived from it. 

At Ecoavantis, and thanks to the use of Genially, we provide our clients with a wide variety of ideas to help them reinforce their corporate communication strategy. We create very creative and innovative pieces, which are fed by the sustainability report and represent an important qualitative leap in terms of marketing and communication. Here’s one last example for the road.

Executive summary of an annual activity report (IUCN)

Cristóbal Duarte

CEO at Ecoavantis, specialists in sustainability visibilization

Cristóbal Duarte
Cristóbal Duarte
CEO at Ecoavantis, specialists in sustainability visibilization

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