- Establish the scope of the report
Businesses are complex and it is often hard to figure out how to report on the business as one entity. Before you begin the reporting process, establish the scope and boundaries of the report. Some clients like to do separate reports for different geographies or parts of the business, whereas others like to do one report for the whole business. Agree the scope, then you can move onto the next stage of the process without confusion.
- Start early
Putting together sustainability reports can take longer than expected, due to information coming from lots of different areas of the business. Gathering data can be especially time-consuming, so the earlier you start, the easier it will be to stay on track. Engaging with different areas of the business is exciting and makes the report holistic and complete, but it can be tricky to do on top of everyone’s full-time jobs. Which brings us to our next point…
- Get internal buy-in
When working with different teams in the business, it’s important to remember that asking them to help with a report is going to add to their workload. If people do not understand the reason for writing a sustainability report, and why it is important, it can be difficult for them to want to engage with the sustainability team. Therefore, you should explain the motive behind sustainability reporting, and the benefits to the business. Your job will be a lot easier for it!
- Frame on a double materiality perspective
According to international ESG standards, it is important that sustainability reports are framed from the double materiality perspective. This offers a more holistic approach to understanding the full range of information that stakeholders seek, and how different issues may impact them. At Luminous, we recommend this method because it not only examines how sustainability issues affect corporate value, but also how companies impact the world around them – whether that impact is on society, the environment, or economies. Using both the financial materiality, ‘outside-in’ approach preferred by standards like SASB (now part of ISSB), and the impact materiality, ‘inside-out’ approach promoted by GRI, offers a robust framework for companies to follow.
- Report with reference to GRI
Reporting with reference to GRI is a good place to start your sustainability reporting journey. As the oldest and most widely used sustainability reporting standard, GRI has created a reporting process that has been adapted by many other sustainability reporting frameworks. Following the GRI process helps to guide companies in their thinking not only about KPIs, but also about how they manage and understanding positive and negative sustainability impacts.
Reporting with reference means aligning the report as much as possible to the GRI standards and including a content index in the report to show the reader where they can find the relevant GRI disclosures. When reporting with reference to GRI as opposed to in accordance with GRI, it is not a requirement that you must disclose every data point. So, if you do not have all the data yet, you can disclose as much as you currently have, and then work towards disclosing more the following year.
- Align materiality to strategy
Hopefully you have undertaken a materiality assessment and you know what your top priority areas are. If not, you can check out our advice here. It is important to ensure your sustainability strategy is built upon your material issues, and there are clear links between the two. It’s no good doing a materiality assessment just to have it filed away and not looked at again, so be clear to show your stakeholders how you are using your materiality assessment to direct your focus to the most pressing issues, and how it is embedded into the sustainability strategy.
- Make sure the design reflects the content
Work with your design team to make sure that the design of the report reflects the content and the messages you are trying to portray. Your report should highlight and enhance the elements of your work that are important to your business, not hide them. For example, if your main priorities are centred around your employees, your design could include photos and imagery to back up the content. If you would like to emphasise your awards and statistics, using infographics and illustrations can help to get your point across. Ensure that graphs and charts help the reader understand trends and progress towards goals.
- Data, data, data
Ongoing data reporting is a great way to showcase your progress to your stakeholders. While including narrative about your sustainability initiatives will be interesting for your readers, some audiences, such as investors, may want to focus on the cold, hard facts. Sustainability data can be a minefield, so we recommend starting small and working up. Make sure you have the basics, such as emissions, employee and compliance data, for your first report. The data should be in a form that allows it to be comparable year on year, so that readers can understand your progress. You should also include performance data to demonstrate how effectively material issues or priority areas are being managed, in order to drive your strategy forward.
We hope these tips help you. If you would like to work with Luminous to produce your first report, please do not hesitate to get in touch: Anokhi.Kalayil@Luminous.co.uk