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  • Writer's pictureJohanna Catani

Annual Sustainability Report: A well-indexed archive or a treasure chest for showing the impact

These weeks are busy in all companies, for annual meetings are coming up within next two months. All yearly reports must be drawn. Data is searched, excels are updated and GRI protocols followed. Those companies that are following the GRI protocol are producing pretty much identical material. The good thing is, that all information is easily found from these reports for the content follows the same agenda. You can take the GRI report of the national airline and say packaging company and there are very little differences in context. Modern sustainability report is as organized as the shelves in well-kept supermarkets. Fruit and veggies, pasta and coffee, toilet paper and bakery, all found in the same order. Some having greater selection than the others. I don’t say that this is a bad thing, but I am suggesting that you could do so much more with all the data you are collecting than just putting it in GRI order or linking your annual report at the website. Here are five giveaways to bring your sustainability data alive at your annual meeting and after:

1. Present the development of your performance

Normal procedure is that companies show the development of data from the past three years or less. Some companies have just started to their sustainability journey, so they don´t even have the data from that long. Either way, it is good to show where you are coming from and where you are going to.

If you have collected data already for several years, present your historical data and show the development of your actions. Your owners are more interested in the success curve from the beginning than just the comparison from few years back. If you have just started to collect the data, communicate your base line and target value. State clearly what is your target growth per year, where you are heading and what is the intended impact of your goals. This gives your audience a perspective and shows weather you are on the track or not.

2. Show the dough

Present the concrete actions that have given you savings, brought new business in, strengthen your competitive edge or increased your employee well-being. Today, all companies get pressure from their owners, suppliers, vendors, agents, employees and customers. Connect the dots, and show the monetary impact on your actions. So instead of only presenting the reduction of your energy consumption, or of your landfill waste, show the euros you have saved or new business that you have created through these transactions. One of our clients won a new business deal for they were the only candidate that had comprehensive sustainability action plan and could prove that they were following it and measuring their performance.

3. Highlight the actions that are most important for your business strategy

Every CEO stress that sustainability policy is not just a collection of add-on actions but in the core of the business strategy and every day working practices. Annual meeting is a great place to prove that statement. If your strategy is to increase digital services, efficiency in your production, or international growth, make sure that you can show how sustainability is fitted into your chosen strategy. Saying that sustainability is embedded in everything we do, may be true, but there are the core actions that really make the difference and are truly embedded in your strategy. Those are the ones you should present to your owners. We love IKEAs way to present their sustainability highlights that bring their strategy alive.

4. Big NO for long-term goals without short-term measures

If your main sustainability goals are long in the future, let us say in 2030, make sure you have short-term measures to show your development. This same logic applies to any other measures really. If you are presenting reduction of CO2 emissions or increase in gender equality, explain also what is the impact of that development. Is the current figure good, what is enough, what is very good, what is moderate, are you on track etc.

5. There is no such a thing as carbon neutral nor climate positive

Calculating CO2 emissions is really tricky for there are so many variables. You may be able to calculate your direct CO2 emissions based on SBTI or according to the GHG Protocol but you still have limited access to the data from your suppliers so basically your calculations are always estimations. If you want to be carbon neutral it means that you compensate your carbon generation by offsetting the same amount or more elsewhere, so that the amount of carbon you offset equals or surpasses the amount you produce. We have nothing against offsetting, but your actions to reduce CO2 generation are much more important and add true value for your company than any compensation. Like in all communication, here too, honesty brings the greatest value. So instead of marketing yourself as carbon neutral company, present instead of how much you have decreased your CO2 generation and how much less you needed to off-set.

All the best for your annual meeting.


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