Are you a first time sustainability reporter? I can help.
Where do you start?
In some organizations, reporting will be easier than in others. I have the experience to help you get started. Here is a basic overview of things to consider as you begin.
First, consider the organizational landscape that you will travel. You should start with an internal evaluation of your organization. You will need to determine if sustainability is a priority in your organization and at what levels it is viewed as important. Organizations that are serious about sustainability initiatives such as having paper recycling policies and energy conservation measures will usually communicate with employees to encourage their participation. This is not always the case. Some organizations have policies that are not well known company-wide or beyond the departments directly affected. One of the benefits of sustainability reporting is communicating sustainability policies and activities to the entire organization. This is beneficial because it can encourage synergies within the organization.
Learning about and documenting an organization’s sustainability activities requires a systematic approach. I can help you to create a map of the sustainability activities in your organization. A good place to start is to build relationships with other departments that are engaged in all the functions of the organization (e.g., production, building maintenance, and human resources). During this mapping process, you will have the opportunity to explain the importance of sustainability reporting and to gain internal support for the report. I can help you craft that message.
An external evaluation is also relevant to see how other organizations are handling sustainability reporting. Take a look at your competitors’ sustainability reports. If they are publishing one and you are not, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Your organization is not publicly communicating how it is operationally efficient. Further, it is missing the effectiveness that can be achieved by adopting and implementing a sustainability strategy. For many of your customers, this may be an important distinction that they seek when choosing between you or your competitors. The external evaluation should include your suppliers and customers. This could be an opportunity to collaborate on sustainability matters that could be profitable to you, your suppliers, and your customers. For example, collaboration on the redesign of packaging could result in lower materials and transportation costs. I can assist with the mapping of your potential points of collaboration.
Second, determine what kind of financial and staff support you need and what you can expect to receive. Determine where you will need funding and prepare a budget. Things you should consider in your budget are staff salaries, external sustainability training costs, and graphic design costs. If you are fortunate, you already have commitments for financial and staff support from the C-Suite. If you do not already have support, you need to make the case with specific examples of benefits that would accrue to the organization. Consider some low-cost alternatives for staffing such as interns enrolled in sustainability programs and graphic design schools. This is a great chance to get your reporting project started and demonstrate its potential without a large budget.
Third, plan the logistics of your reporting process. You can assume that it will take about a year from start to finish so thorough planning is essential. Create your report timeline by establishing milestones and deadlines. Deadlines can and probably will be adjusted. In your planning you will need to consider that determining the report content is one of the most important and time-consuming tasks that you will confront. This will involve assessing your organization’s most significant environmental, economic, and social impacts with input from your stakeholders (e.g., employees, customers, and investors). I can assist with providing best practices guidance for both report content and stakeholder engagement.
Fourth, once your report is written, you need to review it to make sure it adheres to your chosen reporting framework. By putting together a checklist that includes all the requirements, you can systematically determine the report’s compliance with a particular framework. If you choose the GRI Sustainability Standards, I have the expertise to assist in this evaluation.
Fifth, launch your report and insure that people will read it. Advertise its release through a variety of media. Issue a press release, like UPS, Southwest Airlines, and Best Buy, and distribute it to local, national, and international news outlets. If your organization engages in social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, create messages for these venues. If you sell a product, consider putting a link to your report on the product labels or packaging. Without doubt, your website should have a link such as Fujifilm does and perhaps even a menu space for your report. You should consider internal communications as also essential. This may be in the form of a newsletter or direct email. You could request that a link to the report be added to organizational correspondence.
Even if you are an experienced reporter, you may need someone to critically review your report. I can provide a detailed review of your report’s strengths and weaknesses. If you are interested in transitioning to the GRI Standards, I can provide a “gap analysis” that indicates what is needed to be in compliance.
What does a final report look like? Below are the seven reports that I have developed. Need even more, in fact thousands more, to look at? Then click on the link to the GRI Disclosure Database in the table below. (Please be patient as these large files download from the GRI website.)
- Indianapolis International Airport, 2013.
- Ball State University, GRI Sustainability Report, 2013.
- Ball State University, GRI Sustainability Report, 2012.
- City Hall, GRI Sustainability Report, Bloomington, Indiana, 2012.
- Ball State University, GRI Sustainability Report, 2011.
- Minnetrista Cultural Center, GRI Sustainability Report, 2011.
- Ball State University, GRI Sustainability Report, 2010.
- GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database.