There is no doubt that we have all spent a lot of time thinking about the best ways to track information and pull together sustainability reports. But when it comes down to it, is the end result actually helping anyone?
A recent piece on Eco Business suggested that sustainability reports are basically useless. Research by GlobeScan found that investors believe only 10% of information in sustainability reports is useful and author John Pabon thinks that reporting is basically an “ineffective, bloated, dead system.” Although reporting has added a level of transparency via tables of data and statistics— what is this getting us?
Teams put a ton of work put into creating sustainability reports, but if very few people actually read them are having any meaningful impact on creating change? Pabon says no. But he also notes that reporting continues to be necessary to please government entities and boards. In order to meet their needs, he suggests providing just enough information in reports to satisfy these stakeholders, while focusing the majority of a team’s resources toward an effort that will actually make sense to a broader audience.
Pabon believes that there is a better way to do this than through a traditional, old-fashioned report. He refers to this new (shorter) method as a next-generation sustainability report.
These documents will:
Put the stakeholder first. While each stakeholder is looking for a something unique it makes sense to have a tailor-made approach to reporting. Companies are creating separate reports that address the specific needs of a particular groups.
Tell a story. This style of reporting is different. It is a piece that tells stories to actually interest the reader. This means that whatever the effort (printed/digital), it will need to be more visually appealing and less data-driven.
Be succinct. No one needs a 300-page report. No one is likely to read all that. Instead a next-generation reports might be just a few pages or may convey the data in a completely different way like through a digital video or a brochure. Be creative!
The take away from this research is to focus on what will be an effective way of communicating successes and educating stakeholders about progress or hurdles in the process. It’s time to re-evaluate our traditional method of reporting and see what will actually have an impact without wasting valuable time.