Sustainability: How to Tell Your Story

Sustainability reporting has become the go-to method for organizations looking to provide insight and data on environmental and social enterprises. The question is how to take actions and good works and tell a cohesive story to showcase your efforts.

Over the last five years, the audience for these reports has broadened, the mandate for companies to report on their progress has increased, and a global standard for reporting has emerged, called GRI (Global Reporting Initiative). Yet, few have the capabilities to help facilitate this process from start to finish.

As someone who is certified in GRI reporting, I wanted to provide my top-five tips on how to get started when creating your sustainability report …

1. Consult the GRI experts
A shameless plug, I know, but worth noting, GRI is the most widely accepted tool for measuring economic, environmental, and social initiatives and milestones on a yearly basis. The first step toward creating a successful report is to consult the experts. They can help you understand the GRI approach and range of reporting options available.

2. Let the data tell the story
Like all good communications tools, you want to make sure your sustainability report tells a great cohesive story. It’s critical to let the data guide you to the story and theme that aligns with your findings. Then use the power of the data to help amplify the story and paint a holistic picture of your progress.

3. Understand the power of stakeholders
Identifying stakeholders that can help define material aspects that impact your organization will become a critical component to making sure your report addresses the right issues and is speaking to the right audiences. Understanding the power of stakeholder circles is the key to building a report that is reflective of the issues your company should address.

4. Launch and host the report online
The audiences and the format for sustainability reporting have evolved. It is no longer appropriate to waste precious resources printing reams of large reports. More and more companies are going digital and moving their entire report online. This is an opportunity to get really creative, and let your company culture shine through.

5. Say it loud, say it proud – as long as you have something to say
These days, you need a good communications strategy to promote your report and know when there is truly something newsworthy to share. A strategy to determine which data goes from ordinary, to truly extraordinary, is paramount to the report’s authenticity and, ultimately, its traction with your audiences.

Hopefully having these tips in mind as you turn to develop your sustainability report, you’ll be able to provide insight and data on your company’s environmental and social enterprises in a credible, powerful way.

About Laura Sutphen

Laura Sutphen has more than 20 years of communications experience in sectors including entertainment, nonprofits and foundations, healthcare, technology, education, poverty alleviation and the environment. She has dedicated the better part of her career to working on corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues. Laura has played a pivotal role leading Corporate Social Responsibility efforts for many prominent global organizations. She is a subject matter expert in microfinance, food issues, education reform, reproductive rights and holistic health and wellness. Outside of work, Laura is a Jivamukti Yoga and meditation teacher.

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