Sustainability in business has been of increasing importance over the past few years. More businesses are incorporating sustainability as part of their core practices, and produce reports to showcase their targets and achievements.

What is the future of sustainability reporting – and what new and innovative ways can this data be displayed by companies that go further than a heavy PDF document? More exciting approaches can and should be used, making information as accessible as possible.

This will:

  • Widen the prospective audience
  • Captivate people’s attention
  • Give them something to remember
  • Allow information sharing and re-use

Many organisations are starting to incorporate new and innovative technologies and methods to portray their sustainability-related goals and achievements, something that is more important than ever today. Being as engaging as possible can help attract more attention from stakeholders.

Some key ideas emerging from innovation include:

Interactive charts and maps

    • Utilising interactive map tools to help visualise sourcing footprints, where users can click through a map of the world with highlighted information bubbles on all the countries involved.
    • A great example is Patagonia and their sourcing footprint map, where clicking the icons on different countries provide pop-up bubbles of information.

Interactive data visualisation tools

    • This involves interactive chart builders, whereby the user can select various criteria that they are interested in to kick out easy-to-read diagrams or graphs, and can essentially ‘build their own’ charts based on the criteria they are interested in
    • Users can select years, chart type (bar, line etc), specific information (GHG emissions, water use etc) and can easily also toggle between different information
    • Generated by use of specialist software for websites, used to bring data to life in this way.

Videos

  • Using video stories are a great way to effectively paint a picture effectively, so long as they are kept as catchy and concise as possible – getting key points across without overloading or boring the viewers
  • Different approaches can be taken here – from using real actors or employees to get involved and create a film; or using cartoon graphics and images using computer software
  • Use of different effects also help keep it punchy- e.g. 360/panoramic cameras, having text bubbles pop up with key nuggets of information, and background music and sound effects
  • See Green Element’s own video http://www.greenelement.co.uk/environmental-policy/

GIFs and social media

  • This is a key foolproof 21st century approach – GIFs can be created on software or even online on specialist websites. These quick, short, looped video clips (or moving pictures) are perfectly bitesized and are great for websites and social media platforms. The key is to decide what it is you want to show.
  • GIFs are easily shareable (again, sharing buttons can be created online) and ensure wide-reaching access
  • Twitter and social media hashtags can also be created and used on all posts – these can then be searched for by users. Keeping them short and memorable is key

Annual reporting on apps

  • Sustainability report are generally displayed in PDF formats – but these can be long to read and sometimes hard to find on websites. Creating an app for these reports however is a novel way of presenting this information!
  • Apps are accessible, and creating an app specifically for a report is a great method to allow increased accessibility – people can read this on the go, and can find it with a click of a button as opposed to trawling through website links.

Using colourful and quick stats is vital. People want information at their fingertips; and people always like to see something different, something imaginative, and something innovative. Instead of just telling a story, organisations should look to show their stories. Possibly in the near future, sustainability reporting could even incorporate elements of virtual reality – where users can use such technology to ‘live’ the journey of the company’s supply chain, for example.

Content

Transparency and honesty are two primary elements of sustainability reporting.  Where and how value is being added, and being able to clearly demonstrate this is key. Linking sustainability goals to benchmarks or frameworks is a useful approach to tackling sustainability reporting as it provides a guideline to go against. This includes :

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

Everything should also be as accessible as possible, ensuring any ‘technical’ jargon is clearly explained. Readers and viewers should be able to engage with the information being presented to them. Having as up to date information as possible is also important.

So essentially, sustainability reporting should really be seen as something far beyond a tickbox-to-PDF exercise. Embracing innovation, using exciting stats, photos, and videos, and really highlighting certain elements that are important to your company, can really go a long way.

If you’d like any help or advice regarding environmental reporting or data management please contact the team here.

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