So You've Published Your ESG Report. Now What?
by Kyle Smith
You did it. Your first ESG report is published. No doubt it’s cause for celebration. After all, publishing a report is a big deal. It’s the culmination of hours and hours of work to do a materiality assessment, select a framework, gather your ESG data, align teams, and package everything to present to your stakeholders.
News flash. Your work isn’t done. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Your ESG report is a valuable tool for managing operational risk. So it's extremely valuable for ensuring the long-term sustainability of your company and your brand. But it's not leveraged to its full potential if your stakeholders don’t know it exists, don’t have an easy way to access it, and don’t have an easy way to navigate it.
Sometimes, even if you build it, they won't come. So the distribution of your report is just as important as the process of creating it.
That’s because an ESG report shouldn’t be static. It’s just the beginning of a dialogue between you, your investors, and your other stakeholders. When you create a thoughtful distribution plan for your report, you unlock amazing potential because you can share your progress with the right people.
A dynamic ESG report + a strong distribution plan = happy investors and stakeholders.
We’ll cover four important steps:
- Step 1: Establish distribution objectives
- Step 2: Develop a distribution plan
- Step 3: Measure your report’s effectiveness and learn about your stakeholders
- Step 4: Prepare for your next report
Let’s get to it.
Step 1: Establish distribution objectives
Your distribution objectives should complement the objectives of your report. Who do you want to read the report? That determines what your messaging should be – messaging that is unique to your company and tailored for your stakeholders.
Communicating your report to stakeholders begins with members of your C-suite and board of directors. When these groups are well-versed in the report material, stakeholders will be provided with evidence of progress.
Customers, investors, rating agencies, and employees are part of the wider audience you’ll want to read your report. Be sure to adjust your messaging and identify the best channels to fit each specific audience (see Step 2).
Step 2: Develop a distribution plan
Once you have a set of clear objectives, you can begin to develop a plan for sharing your report. It’s key to identify the channels you have access to so you can plan accordingly.
Owned media channels include email newsletters, social media, your main website, and social accounts of company executives. You control the narrative and messaging here, so emphasize engaging creative elements and concise copy with clear calls-to-action to push people to your report.
Effective distribution starts with executives. 38% of investors expect to hear from the CEO on social media and 48% expect other members of the C-Suite to be active on social (2021 Brunswick Digital Investor Survey). Distribution starts at the top through personal accounts. Develop a strategy to use personal accounts to complement company accounts.
For example, 20% of investors use LinkedIn to inform investment decisions, and more and more investors used email newsletters, YouTube, and LinkedIn as digital sources in 2021 (Digital Investor Survey). Develop a strategic communications plan for the channels that you control.
Earned media is word of month. That includes customer and employee shares or a mention on an external site or news article. Employee buy-in and involvement is critical for your report visibility. Here are a few stats:
- Content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Social Media Today)
- Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels (MSLGroup)
- 76% of people are more likely to trust content from “normal” people vs. brands (AdWeek)
Paid media puts a budget behind distribution so you can widen your reach or target a specific audience in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) or social media. If you don't have a large audience on your owned channels, this is an effective way to expand the visibility of your report and reach new audiences.
Step 3: Learn about your stakeholders with analytics
Beyond risk managemenet and brand benefits, an ESG report can give you new insight into your stakeholders. There are several tools that can help you monitor page visits and better understand your audience demographics if you've published an online ESG report. That way you’ll know what’s working and what’s not within your report.
Google Analytics gives you access to data to understand how many people have visited your report, what channel they came from, and what content they engaged with while on certain pages.
As a result, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your audience so you can improve your report and your user experience. It has an easy-to-use interface so your team and easily gather insights from your report.
Crazy Egg utilizes A/B testing to pit different variations of a page against each other for the best performance. Heatmapping gives you insight into which areas of a page are being clicked on most, and the scroll map feature reveals how far down a page users are scrolling. This tool focuses on identifying underperforming pages of your report for better interaction.
Google Search Console, Hotjar, and Quantcast are other analytics tools you may want to utilize.
Step 4: Prepare for your next report
With analytics properly set up, you can make real-time changes to your report or develop a plan for changes to implement on your next report. An ESG website can be a living, breathing asset so you can publish data in real-time and share your best, updated ESG story. The advantage of your report being online is that interaction can become a dialogue.
You’re speaking with your audience instead of at them.
Publishing your ESG report is only the first step in advancing your company’s sustainability efforts and telling your ESG story. Without a clear distribution plan, targeted messaging, and tools in place to track your report, the hours of work you put into compiling the report will be forgotten. Remember your objectives in creating the report and run with them. The interactivity of a web-based report creates a dialogue, but you must initiate it by getting stakeholders involved. Are you ready to get to work?