Key Considerations for Any ESG Report

by Jonathan Fisher

ESG reporting is an invaluable tool for any brand: it manages operational risk, while simultaneously building long-term brand integrity. So when thinking about the message that your ESG report sends, it’s important to consider key strategies that maximize the value of your data.

Below are key considerations for any ESG report that will elevate the message to be more impactful for directors, investors, customers, and other stakeholders. Incorporating these strategies into your report will help reinforce your brand and drive home an ESG vision for the future.

Transparent Findings

An ESG report is valuable because it provides a launchpad for building brand integrity. In today’s social landscape where social responsibility matters deeply to consumers and investors, authenticity is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. Therefore, an ESG report should transparently communicate where a company is focused, has succeeded, and where it needs improvement.

Being honest with all aspects of ESG data is a key method for building trust in a brand. It assures investors, customers and other stakeholders that they are receiving complete transparency in regard to the company's operations and future objectives. It also lends credibility to future reports when, ideally, the company can report improvements in the areas that need attention. Stakeholders are not expecting perfection, but they are expecting you to manage the risk and capitalize on opportunities for incremental improvement.

Building trust with stakeholders early in the reporting process will instill confidence that the company is purposefully considering all the risks associated with ESG. There will almost always be room for improvement, and showing all the data communicates thoughtful consideration of the issue. If it has been measured, it can be managed, therefore displaying transparent findings tells stakeholders that the company is on top of the issue.

Specific Results

Telling an impactful story through ESG reporting doesn’t mean hard numbers should be thrown out the window if the data is not very favorable. A strong ESG report communicates specific data in a meaningful way, using a variety of infographics, charts, motion, callouts, timelines, and other visual methods. Different stakeholders process information differently, and a best practice provides various methods to consume the data and tell your story.

In Patterson UTI’s 2020 sustainability report, the Emissions and Energy section featured a combination of in-depth written storytelling about emission reduction priorities with an illustrative graph. By featuring both qualitative and quantitative results, companies can leverage their investment in ESG data collection and drive the point home with impactful results. 

ESG reports that express findings only in very general terms without explicit data are not as meaningful to stakeholders, and express a lack of transparency. Data-driven results in a report allow readers to find specific pieces of information easily, and allows companies to tell a more complete story. 

Distribution Strategy

The ESG reporting process doesn’t end when a company hits “publish.” From that point on, companies have an opportunity to promote and distribute all of the hard-earned findings. Planning for the post-report process is crucial to ensuring that an ESG report builds up the brand identity and communicates that brand’s vision effectively.

Distributing a report could look like an extended marketing campaign to share the report to the public, a concerted effort to communicate with stakeholders about key findings, or something else entirely. No matter the method, it’s important to consider how people will consume the information, and adjust the communications to match the audience. After publishing a report, companies must explain the “why” and “how” of the report’s importance. Often employee training is critical to extending the value of reporting. Employees and Boards crave benchmark information about how they compare to others. Peer reviews are generally not part of public reports, but can be leveraged internally.

ESG reporting is an evergreen task, not a once-annual occurrence. The goal of ESG reporting is to consistently leverage the information a company gathers to enhance its brand and effectively communicate with all stakeholders. Some companies even hire entire marketing teams around their ESG report to ensure that they properly take advantage of all the valuable information gathered in the process.

Effective Reporting Format

The main aspect to consider when strategizing the distribution of an ESG report is the format of the final product. Traditionally, many ESG reports have consisted of a single, static document (either in print or as a PDF) that mirrors the style of an annual financial report. But formatting ESG reports for the web can offer more engaging, accessible, and effective features.

Crestwood Equity Partners’ 2020 ESG report utilizes a website format to communicate the report’s findings more dynamically than a PDF can. Web ESG reports allow users to easily find the information they are looking for, as well as allow companies to tell their entire ESG story using video, animated infographics, and raw data downloads. 

Companies that utilize the web for ESG reporting can make their reports searchable on Google, allowing them to reach a much wider audience and build up brand awareness. This also makes it easier for rating agencies and consolidators to find data. And for companies with an international presence, a website can be more quickly and easily translated to hundreds of languages.

Web ESG reports also allow for the ideal user experience, with more accessible features that conform to WCAG guidelines and make your report more welcoming to all users. Once published, ESG sites enable companies to make edits and tweaks to their report on their own, allowing them to enhance and update their report if progress is reported.

Communicate Your ESG Strategy with One Comprehensive Tool

Using Artisan, ESGRP’s reporting platform, companies can create beautiful websites for their ESG reports. Equipped with flexible templates and simple publishing options, Artisan can enable you to set up your ESG report in a fraction of the time it takes to start from scratch. 

Get a one-on-one live demo of Artisan to learn more.