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10 power tips to take your reporting further

Got the basics down, and want to fine-tune your message for each audience? Execs share their secrets.

If you’ve been reporting on sustainability for a while, you probably know the basics of what works and what doesn’t. Those still grasping at the nitty-gritty can get a recap on tips for starting out — but as you’ve found yourself here, it’s likely that you want to know how to mature your reporting from a checkbox exercise to a process that’s useful to you and your stakeholders.

The recent 2degrees Reporting and Performance Masterclass was bursting with bite-size tips and fascinating case studies that catered for everyone along the reporting spectrum. To make the most of the brains in the room, we’ve sourced advice from our savvy presenters and delegates to bring you the best from the day. If you get the tips below under your belt, perhaps you might want to take a peek at how to really innovate and report like a leader.

But for now, let’s take a look at how to take your reporting practice up a notch.

1. Stop producing those 100-page reports

Think about what your stakeholders want to see, said Caroline McCarthy-Stout, group corporate affairs at Lloyds Banking Group. “It needs to be simple. In reality, people don’t read masses of communication. They don’t read long text versions of documents. They want to have simple communication that tells them exactly what they want to know.” Something that requires, as McCarthy-Stout puts it, “chunking it up.”

2. Be honest about where you’re going wrong

“The innovation section was rubbish,” admitted Andrew Edlin, environment and sustainability director at 2 Sisters Food Group, about its sustainability strategy developed last year. Luckily, the food-manufacturing firm teamed up with 2degrees to source some constructive feedback from key stakeholders. “People came back with some really good ideas. Nearly everyone that came back gave an idea or suggestion on how to improve it.”

3. It’s not just an annual thing

It’s just a question of reframing it, according to Briana Inlow, engagement manager at Sky. “If you can think about your report as part of a wider communication strategy, you can start to think about how key elements of the report can help get your key messages out there.”

4. Choose the right information for the right audience

Key messages are always the bedrock, Inlow said. “When it comes to actually engaging people in what you want to say, it’s tailoring how you say those messages, where you say them and trying to tie that to a moment in time that they’re already interested in.”

She admitted that sending an alert to all of Sky’s stakeholders about the publication of a new report probably would find its way into the trash. Rather, it’s better to “tailor those emails to share a piece of information they actually want,” then guide them to the report as a result of that.

5. Bring it to life

A compelling video from GSK provides a quick introduction to the company with some issues that are significant — because they’re critical to its patients. “I think that’s really important when we think about creating value-added dialogue, trust and transparency,” said Sarah Dyson, director of corporate responsibility and corporate reporting at GSK. “Companies increasingly want to find ways to articulate what their business strategy is, their business model and the long term value creation.”

6. The value of reporting starts with integration

But it doesn’t stop there. “It’s integration into strategy, integration into how you run the business and how you measure the success of what you’re doing,” said Vedant Walia, VP of citizenship, reporting and assurance at Barclays.

7. Not all data is created equal

“The data has to be much more robust,” said Claudine Blamey, chair of the ICRS and head of stewardship at the Crown Estate. Creating integrated reports means that data falls into the hands of the finance team. “We’ve got to know where it has come from …  how mature is it? We all collect loads of data, but what does it deliver at the end of the day in terms of value?”

8. Look to the future, not just retrospectively

“Make sure you have stories and dialogue to go along with the data,” said Louise Clarke, group sustainability manager at the Berkeley Group. That means really pulling out the key facts and figures on what you’ve achieved, but also “showing where you’re going,” she said.

9. Treat reporting as a process, not an end in itself

Data should be used to actually help the business make better decisions, said Blamey. “If you have information that you didn’t have before, you have the ability to make much richer decisions.”

10. It’s much more than a report that lands on someone’s desk

“It’s really not static at all. You are going to deal with different media; it’s much more real-time,” said Christophe Wilfert, CEO at thinkstep. “Where do we stand today? It’s much more social.”

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