It’s a new year so you know what that means – it’s time to create last year’s sustainability report! (Woo!) It’s so important to reflect on the previous year to help understand how to grow further this year. While you can set intentions and make changes at any time, it can be useful to tap into the new year energy and gain momentum! If you’re not already jumping out of your seat to get started on your report, read the 3 reasons that I think will convince you below!
1. Evaluate goal progress and make a plan.
Hopefully your company already does annual planning and goal setting. (It’s not too late to start this year! 🙂 ) Your sustainability goals should be a part of this annual goal setting because it directly connects to your business operations. This could include altering business processes or at least spending time evaluating different possibilities. For example, lets say your company set a goal to travel more sustainably by tracking carbon emissions and reducing single use plastic. It will be important to add policies and steps in the current process to both track this information and enable compliance. The process or policy will need to be clearly stated to make sure people understand and, more importantly, buy into the new way of doing things. You may even want to provide resources to your team to further enable them to fulfill these goals. In this example, it could be as easy as providing information on packing in a more sustainable way and a process document for choosing the most sustainable travel route. If you have the budget, it could include providing reusable products (consider branding) to replace common single use items like plastic bags and mini travel items. Consider items like travel bottles that can be refilled, reusable silicone bags, or toothpaste tablets.
Starting the report forces your company to evaluate last year’s performance and make a plan for the current year. This is especially important if sustainability is a new area for your company or seen as a lower priority in the typical day to day operations of the business. Structured goal setting and planning can help in this area if you formalize the processes required for your goals to be reached and tracked. Failing to start the year with sustainability planning could cause you to fall behind on or even not meet the goals set in previous reports. Transparency, honesty, and accountability are pillars of sustainability reporting, so note that failure to reach targets will need to be disclosed and explained in future reports.
2. Write your report while the information is fresh!
Don’t wait too long before writing last year’s report. The past year just happened so it will be easier to remember events that occured and shaped your company’s year. While you will always have data to show you what happened (hopefully), there can be events, issues, or surprises that will be harder to describe and recall as time passes. I think this is particularly true for the opening letter from the CEO, and any sections where you provide a narrative. In my opinion, the narrative parts of your sustainability report are crucial in setting you apart from other companies as well as helping you connect to your stakeholder audience. These narratives can play a large role in your marketing strategy as well (more on this below!) so you can gain even more benefits when done well.
3. Take advantage of marketing material and communicate with your audience.
Successfully decreasing your company’s impacts and making efforts to increase your positive impacts is something to be proud of, and it should be shared! As you are creating and achieving sustainable goals, you have an opportunity to share this with your customers and other stakeholders. The yearly sustainability report can be used as the focus of a marketing campaign dedicated to sharing your company’s focus on sustainability. The more impact and progress you are making, the more robust your report and marketing campaign can be. You can not only repurpose aspects of your report, you can also create more content as you reach milestones throughout the year. Consider “behind the scenes” social media posts or email campaigns sharing how your team is actually making progress.
If you haven’t started already, I hope you see the value and are now convinced get started on this year’s sustainability report.