The hard truth: Possibly no one will read your sustainability report

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If you didn’t know it before, now you do. Possibly no one will read your sustainability report. It’s a lot of work and when you finish it, you feel like the worst is behind you. But it’s just the beginning. The good news is that yes, the worst is behind us now, it is just time for fun, sharing, and networking.

So, let’s find out how  you can communicate and distribute your sustainability report.

Your report was not a waste of time, quite the contrary, it was the foundation of the beautiful castle you can build on top. Without it, the castle would be weak, in danger, and perhaps just a backdrop rather than a place to live and prosper. A little more work and some new styles and dresses will do the trick. 

With the meat you have now, you know where you are and perhaps you also know where you will go from here in terms of sustainability. Take a deep breath and prepare for the next step. It’s time to share, engage, and get people on board. We can help you chunk all that great information and knowledge in your sustainability report into a powerful business and communication tool. 

What to communicate and highlight

A few years ago, the answer to this would be to share the data that makes your company look its best. Now, it must be a mix of what is important to society, what is important to the industry, and what you are doing.

We have also changed in our understanding that sustainability is a challenging issue to address, and we are more open to companies sharing data that needs improvement as well. It’s okay to share some data that needs to be improved, as long as you have a plan for improvement. Sustainability is a journey, and there are no fully sustainable companies, only paths to improvement, and each company must find its own path.

Beware of sustainability claims

A good thing about creating a communication campaign around your sustainability report is that you are not just making empty claims about how sustainable your company is. You have the data to back you up. Just be aware of how the data is interpreted and of any green claims rules that apply where you are communicating.  

The following are some examples of green claims guidelines in the USA and EU.

Chunk it all and make it interactive

Trying to explain your entire sustainability strategy at once will overwhelm your audience, since sustainability is a complicated topic. Ever heard of the concept of eating an elephant? You must do it in little bites. Therefore, chunk your strategy and report into small pieces. These can be shared as beautiful GIFs that can be posted on social networks. 

Put it in visual form

Before you try to collect all your main data into an infographic, think about what your users will do with the tool and provide context for the data. Even if an infographic consists mostly of data, it should contain a narrative taking people from what they know to what they still need to learn. 

Avoid oversimplifying your data and messages. Sustainability is not easy, and should not be oversimplified. As communicators, it is our responsibility to clarify the data, identify trends, uncover patterns, and reveal realities that were not previously apparent.  

Famous data designer Roberto Cairo wrote that “graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space”.

 

More examples here.

Bring some fun into it

In order to create change, you must also create curiosity for something different, so why not challenge people to play with you around your sustainability strategy and see what they don’t know or think they might think wrong. Playing games and taking quizzes can be a great way to challenge people and teach them in an entertaining way important concepts they need to understand in order to be part of the change that is needed in society and the workplace. 

Gamification refers to the implementation of game mechanics in non-gaming environments. The technique is used in everything from banking systems to fitness devices, and our brains love it. Game mechanics motivate us because we have been socially conditioned to respond to reward and punishment. Gamified rewards like badges and prizes are strong neurological triggers for human participation since we have a cocktail of neurochemicals that respond to stimulation!

Using this to your advantage, you can design quizzes for your employees or for your customers and consumers. You can base them on fun facts about your company, or on important facts and topics from around the world where you desire to affect change. We guarantee that the concepts will stick more than with any other communication tool. 

     

Your employees are your most important audience

A recent Brand Prism research by Long Dash found that it’s actually employees who are the most trusted source of information about a brand. Yet, while 86 percent of employees say they are proud of their work, only half of those respondents said they would post about their companies on social media. How can we tap into this latent group of influencers? Let’s start with these hard facts.

  1. You won’t be able to convince the world outside if you don’t convince your employees. Without them, the foundation will be weak and shaky.  
  2. If you can convince them, they will be your best ambassadors. The implications of an engaged workforce are quite powerful. According to a 2020 Gallup study, having a highly engaged workforce leads to 20 percent higher sales and 21 percent higher profitability, and there are likely even more benefits that are difficult to measure, especially when talking about sustainability.
  3. If you convince them, next year’s report, as well as other sustainability projects, will be much easier to implement thanks to the collaboration and shared vision you cultivated. 
An internal campaign was implemented by SGS to increase employee awareness of energy savings. (Designed by Ecoavantis)

More examples here.

All examples included in this article have been designed by Ecoavantis for different customers in Spain and internationally. 

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