What to include in your sustainability report (for retailers)
Transparency is crucial for your company to achieve credibility and accountability. An important step in this process is to provide a sustainability report, which not only has several benefits for you as a retailer – it will also help you communicate your sustainability efforts directly to stakeholders.
Find out why you need a sustainability report, what it should include, and our best tips on how to present the results.
Published: March 2023
In the wake of the climate crisis, consumers are becoming more aware of the impact their choices have on our environment, and there is stronger shift towards a sustainable and circular economy. People are more familiar than ever with issues like greenwashing and human rights violations, and the demands on businesses to provide transparency is growing – whether that’s through legislation or companies being held accountable by the communities in which they operate.
Transparency is crucial for businesses to effectively implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and should be a cornerstone within your business operations. Companies can no longer claim they’re sustainable – today they have to prove it.
Why do you need a sustainability report?
Providing a sustainability report comes with several benefits. It will enhance your company's transparency, resulting in increased credibility and accountability. This, in turn, can make your business more appealing to potential customers and investors. Moreover, creating a sustainability report can help attract talent as employees have become more interested in working for environmentally and socially responsible organizations.
A sustainability report is an excellent way to communicate your company's sustainability initiatives to a wide variety of stakeholders, keep track of your progress, and identify risks and opportunities within your company. It's also a tool to encourage more sustainable practices among your stakeholders and community. The goal of your report is to identify the priorities of your company and report on the work being made to achieve them. In order to avoid claims of greenwashing and mitigate potential risk, it’s important to be transparent in the report.
A sustainability report should include three elements:
- Environmental report: includes information about your environmental effect, e.g. carbon footprint and water usage.
- Social report: shows your company’s contribution to society through your practices and policies. Include information on community outreach programs supported by the company, potential benefits derived from corporate social responsibility projects, and highlights of your corporate giving activities.
- Financial report: informs on your performance and investments.
What is ESG?
Sustainable investing evaluates companies based on their performance in three areas: Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG). By using these metrics, investors can determine how sustainable and resilient a company is, and hold it accountable for its sustainability claims.
ESG helps companies set measurable goals, gain insights into risks and opportunities, avoid greenwashing, and meet regulations and demands.
ESG regulations differ across countries and industries, compliance with regional differences is crucial, as non-compliance can result in severe consequences, including fines, reputation damage, and revenue loss.
What supplier information to include in your report
When it comes to choosing supplier information for your report, it’s important to provide your code of conduct, which ensures that your suppliers adhere to your company’s standards in the supply chain.
A code of conduct should include:
- Labor practice and standards: The standards and requirements that your suppliers are committed to following, such as compliance with fair working conditions, that may include child labor laws and fair wages. Do you offer any program to help the workers improve their situation? If so include that in the report and explain how it benefits
- Environmental policy: This includes the material used in production and distribution, with a focus on sustainable materials, list of restricted substances that your suppliers are committed to following, as well as information on water usage.
- Ethics: The purpose of these components is to implement measures against corruption, while also upholding ethical business practices and effectively managing relationships with partners.
- Review and documentation policy: How you ensure that your suppliers are following your code of conduct, including what steps you take to address social risks (such as poor working conditions) in your supply chain.
In terms of supplier information, it's also important to present:
- Data on the number of suppliers monitored: This may include the year when you started working with the supplier, the amount of suppliers participating in programs, complaints received, and suppliers participating in programs.
- Location: List where your suppliers are located. If some part of your production takes place in a high-risk country or countries, this should be disclosed in your report.
- Metrics on supplier performance: A good framework to use is to use the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include goals such as clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, and decent work and economic growth.
Disclose your risk assessment, including areas that need improvement in your supply chain, and your company's goals regarding your supply chain, such as striving for full transparency. It’s also important to present the results of your sustainability efforts in order to show your progress.
By including this information, your sustainability report will be more comprehensive and transparent, allowing stakeholders to make more informed decisions about your company's sustainability practices.
How to present your results
When presenting your results in the sustainability report, it’s important to have clear communication so that all stakeholders can understand the information. For large amounts of data, the best way is to use tables and graphs, which makes the information easy to digest and comprehend for the reader. You can also provide details on how to read the report and what each category includes, and explain the words you use by providing a glossary of editorial terms. Another tip is to include stakeholder reports in the form of a document for each stakeholder, making it easier for them to find relevant information.
For efficient distribution and ease of access to your sustainability report, you should publish it online. You may also print copies for distribution to select stakeholders.
Simplify your reporting process
Reporting your ESG data can be both complex and confusing. Worldfavor's standard reports reduce your reporting burden and enable you to share your data in a smarter way, based on the latest reporting standards, frameworks, initiatives, and regulations in your industry. You'll save time and create consistency – plus, provide a common language for suppliers and business partners to communicate and report in a standardized and systemized format.
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