The Case for ESG Websites: Why Sustainability Reports Should Be Sustainable
by Leigh Anne Bishop
It’s often said that “the medium is the message.” This especially rings true with ESG reporting. As more companies embrace ESG reporting (in 2019, 90% of the S&P 500 published an ESG report, according to G&A Institute) not only will they have to assemble ESG data, but they’ll also have to choose between several formats: print, digital PDF, or an ESG website.
If the medium is the message, no other format so completely embraces sustainability as an ESG website. Indeed, sustainability reports should, in and of themselves, be sustainable. In contrast to other formats, ESG websites personify a commitment to ESG. They are environmentally-friendly, evergreen, and can be distributed on a global scale. Plus, ESG websites have the added advantage of being a powerful tool for brand management, enabling companies to control their ESG narrative among all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
As more of society embraces a digital and sustainable mindset, ESG websites soon will no longer be optional, but an imperative for companies serious about sustainability.
Expand Your Audience
ESG websites are an ideal format for reaching all of a company’s stakeholders for several reasons. First, because they’re good for SEO. Since ESG websites are crawlable, they can be indexed by search engines. This results in more opportunities for visibility and makes it easier for ratings agencies and consolidators to find data. Second, they expand the geographical impact of a report. Companies with an international presence can engage with stakeholders around the world by making their reports available in hundreds of languages on an ESG website.
Third, by conforming to WCAG guidelines, ESG websites make content accessible to a wider audience, including those with disabilities like blindness and impaired vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, or photosensitivity. Finally, ESG websites help companies better understand their audience with the ability to monitor traffic and engagement. These measurable analytics can help companies better understand the interests of stakeholders and develop insights for future reports – and even drive strategic business decisions as it relates to how they tell their story.
Create the Best User Experience
ESG websites also provide the best user experience for stakeholders by presenting content in an engaging, interactive, and often more scannable, readable way. They are easy to navigate and are accessible on both desktop and mobile (whereas PDFs are not necessarily responsive). They also open up a variety of possibilities for interactive content including data visualization, digital video, and graphics that reinforce a company’s ESG story through case studies and testimonials.
There’s also no middle-man with ESG websites. Once published, the companies themselves control the reports and can quickly make edits or corrections without involving outside designers, developers, or printers. User roles, groups, and permissions are easily customizable to enable steamlined authoring, approval, and publishing.
ESG websites provide a more intuitive and natural experience for content management that puts the report directly in the hands of a company’s ESG leadership. And if it’s critical for stakeholders – most importantly investors – to have a physical copy of the report, an ESG website still allows the flexibility to print a report.
Save Money – And The Environment
An ESG website is a shrewd investment with a long-term impact. It can be published at a lower lifetime cost than print reports – both financially and environmentally. An ESG website is a one-time investment to establish a microsite and framework; from there, there are minimal recurring costs for hosting and maintenance. Print reports, in contrast, are an annual recurring cost for print and distribution.
Once published, ESG websites are evergreen (editable at any time), dynamic (data can update in real-time), and flexible (can have unlimited pages). Data, charts, and images can quickly be updated in real-time, links to existing company content can be included, and unlimited pages can be added to ensure reports are thorough, up-to-date, and connected with hyperlinks to other existing online assets.
Control the Narrative
Many companies may have concerns about report security where anyone on the internet has access. These companies can implement security measures to limit access and ensure there are no backdoors or other system vulnerabilities. Based on the audience, certain pages or entire reports can be gated and shared privately with specific stakeholders, shareholders, or board members.
In addition, for ease of use, ESG websites can house simple performance data PDFs that provide topic disclosure indexes of environmental, social, and governance data for those who still need a quick and easy download of metrics.
The Final Case for ESG Websites
ESG websites are gaining traction and will become a mainstay format for evidence-based storytelling. An ESG website is a living, editable report that encourages recurring visits as new content and data are shared. Ultimately, online reports have the potential to scale with an organization as it expands its ESG story, showing progress and disclosures year-over-year. The time for ESG websites is now. Why wait?
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