What does the weather, your kid’s exam results, and a business’s impact have in common? They’re all easier to get your head around in the form of a snappy report.
Impact reports show that it’s possible to do good and do good business at the same time. They prove that we’re doing what we claim to be doing. They underline our commitment to all stakeholders (not just shareholders), and hold us accountable for our impact, so we can learn and do better.
Today’s consumers are switched on, savvy and sceptical about sustainability and do-gooding claims from brands. And rightly so. They want to make informed decisions about who they support. To know more about the companies they interact with and their impact on society and the environment. An annual impact report allows a brand to communicate that with transparency and accountability.
How to communicate impact
You’ve decided to produce an impact report. Congratulations, good call. Now what?
Those first conversations should include talking about your sustainability mission and ambition, what you’re already doing to look after the environment, any existing internal policies, and the why – reasons behind wanting to change.
It is important to look beyond the obvious factors. Going beyond carbon footprint and looking at things such as staff policy, because there is no such thing as sustainability if we’re not looking after people too. Rather than greenwashing, many businesses are so worried about being cancelled that instead of inflating their impact, they may actually be green-hushing. We find that a lot of the time businesses are already doing things that are creating positive impact and through open conversation, you can identify areas where there is need for improvement.
But that’s the thing, the main point when aiming to build brand trust around sustainability, is that brands show intent and willingness to do better over time. Change can’t always happen overnight, it’s a process, so doing things with a strong intention is very important.
Don’t wait for perfection
We shouldn’t make companies look at the roadmap of sustainability and not want to start because they feel like they have to change everything immediately.
– Leap Creative Director Nathan Lance, speaking on the Creative Characters Podcast
As well as committing to long-term change, the reality is that most companies, just like people, will mess up and make mistakes along the way to their sustainable business goals. That’s ok. It’s a shame that the fear of getting it wrong holds brands back from communicating their impact, because those moments when you do make a mistake can be useful catalysts. As long as there is honesty and you’re prepared to learn and make changes, dust yourself off and keep going. That is what brand transparency is all about – if you haven’t come across Ace & Tate’s ‘Look, we f*cked up’ report, it’s well worth a read.
So yes, there will be challenges to reaching a sustainable future but finding joy in the process will keep us motivated to keep going. We see it as a part of our job to help companies to develop that. We have to make sure that we enjoy what we do to feel energised. Part of becoming more sustainable is exploration and finding other ways to do things, not just restricting and taking things away. That feeling of progress is hugely rewarding – and joyful!
The long haul
Like we’ve established, the key to sustainability is playing the long game. At Leap we have been working on, and showcasing a better way to do business for over 20 years but impact reporting has helped formalise and put it on paper. It really becomes a valuable tool when you can see the journey and get some perspective; how you built on successes, identified and addressed issues, slipped up and got back on it.
The first year is the biggest step, it’s where you do the initial stock take, set the bar, find your feet, commit to change. It’s exciting. But in the second year, there is a different kind of magic. There is a trust and shorthand that enables positive flow. You’re setting the course for the longevity of sustainability work and building efficient ways to communicate impact.
More and more businesses are becoming interested in measuring and communicating impact. As a B Corp, you are legally required to do so, and the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive is another indicator that this may become standard practice in business. The EU CSRD has been developed to support the European Green Deal, aimed at transforming the EU into a resource-efficient and climate-neutral economy.
Communicating impact creates ripples beyond the business itself as well. By doing better and sharing those efforts with the world, you are not only making a direct positive difference, but also giving others a springboard to take their own first steps from. So forget about the mammoth, dry, and jargon filled documents that the word ‘report’ may conjure up. Instead, focus on designing for the reader. It’s not about reporting, more but creating smart – using visuals and pulling out the essence that helps drive progress on sustainability and in turn, business performance.
If you enjoyed this post, then check out our other resources; with tips, tricks and honesty about impact reporting from our community. If you have a resource you would like to share, please get in touch.