3 Ways to Make Sustainability Reporting Enjoyable (and Avoid Drowning in the Excel Pile)
This time of year, many Corporate Sustainability practitioners are hard at work preparing for the big time of the year - the release of the company’s Sustainability Report. It should be a time to be thrilled and proud, but for many, it’s a truly stressful period. Luckily, there are things you can do to make the process a little smoother and more enjoyable.
As sustainability reporting requirements have increased, frameworks to support standardization have advanced, and companies’ maturity and ambitions in the field have evolved - the workload connected to preparing the sustainability report has skyrocketed. Corporate Sustainability teams are spending more time than ever on chasing information from other business units and external providers, manually aggregating data, double checking, validating, and filling gaps. Not to mention, producing content and coordinating with various internal and external resources for the actual publication process.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid ending up in this overwhelming chaos year after year (or avoid it in the first place). Here are a few things you can do to get a more enjoyable reporting experience:
#1 - Build a Process with Minimal Person Dependency
Many professionals are worried about the reporting process being dependent on one or a few persons in the organization, and express feelings like: “I would have no idea what to do if (Person X) would leave from here”. Building a process that makes information and processes less dependent on a few persons, distributing the responsibility and the access to information, will reduce stress, administration load and the risk of the consequences should key persons go absent. It will also result in much better traceability of the data.
An extreme amount of effort is spent on this annual publication, so why not make more out of that work and simplify it at the same time. Systematically reviewing and reporting your company’s sustainability metrics and progress more than once a year, keeping it alive, will help you in many ways. It is more engaging for your stakeholders such as employees and customers to continuously follow your progress. It will simplify your own work to have a regular documentation of progress, making the load less heavy and more distributed over the year instead of bulking up once per year. And finally, reporting your work more often will help you analyze how you are progressing regularly and take actions earlier to improve your impact.
#3 - Focus on what’s Material
Quality over quantity is true also in sustainability reporting. Focus your reporting on the aspects that are most material for your organization, where your organization has a considerable impact and which your different stakeholders find important. An extensive sustainability report requires more efforts, so make sure you adapt it to the scope that you organizational can handle now, and plan for meaningful additions next year.
These are three elements to start developing a healthier, risk-free and enjoyable sustainability reporting experience in your organization, and for you to be able to focus on the actual impact that you are there to achieve - not wasting your time and energy on the administration around it. Being stuck in overwhelming reporting doesn’t help the world - or your organization for that matter - a tiny bit, and it doesn’t make you and your colleagues full of energy to pursue impact.
If you are reporting for the first time, maybe even a bit behind schedule, don’t worry. Sustainability reporting doesn’t have to be overly complex. Focusing on the material aspects and setting up a smooth process for the gathering and documenting the most important information will take you a long way. Creating a systematic process from day one will help you a lot both today and in the coming years.