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Corporate Transparency: A Beginners Guide to Reporting on Your Company's Impact

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

What is an annual impact report and what does it have to do with the holiday season?


Although it has very little to do with end-of-year holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, or Native American Heritage Day, it does have to do with the end of the year. You see, annual impact reports are, for most companies, published at the end of or after the standard operating calendar year as a culmination of the progress on and goals created for your company’s social and environmental impact. Ranging anywhere from 5 to 50+ pages, these reports are an incredible opportunity to highlight your company’s sustainability initiatives, successes, and challenges.


Should companies report in accordance with a 3rd party standard?


You may be considering, either now or in the future, producing your report in accordance with a 3rd party reporting standard like GRI. We highly recommend this path in most cases because it creates standardization in the reporting space and allows for side-by-side comparison of sustainability practices across companies. When a company reports without using a 3rd party standard, it is tempting for them to report on areas that are not material to the company with a “pick-and-choose” method. That said, we understand that it may not always make sense for your business depending on your size and sector. For this reason, we will keep this article focused on general, non-standard-specific practices for creating an informal report or impact summary. Do be sure, though, to clarify in your report whether or not you’ve created it in accordance with a third-party standard.


If you would like assistance in creating a report in accordance with a 3rd party impact reporting standard, reach out to us here at Everoot and we would be happy to help.


How does one go about writing an impact summary?


A great impact summary has three key elements: Introduction, highlights, and progress updates / future goals. Let’s break it down one by one, using some samples from one of our clients’ reports: Bite.



Introduction


Tell the world who you are, even if they already know you. Kick it off with a statement from your Founder or CEO, with a wide focus on summarizing this year’s actions and what you’re looking forward to in the next. If you have a mission statement and/or core values, this is a great place to include them.




Do you have a larger impact strategy thesis that you’re abiding by when setting commitments and goals? If so, provide that here, or annex it into its own section following your introduction. This will be exceptionally useful for larger corporations and those setting science-based targets for reduction in water, energy, GHGs, etc.


Highlights


What did you accomplish this year? Identify some of your key accomplishments, commitments, and/or positive company changes that you are exceptionally proud of and want to inform your readers about early on.


Progress Updates & Future Goals


This section provides updates to your stakeholders on the areas that are most material to your business and should be the largest section of your report.


For companies reporting on impact strategies that have already been developed, here you’ll also review each ongoing public commitment and goal you’ve made previously or have set within the year. Convey your progress against the goal and committed timeline, and highlight any successes or shortcomings in reaching each goal. Reporting on company impact is a transparent act by nature, so be sure that you’re overtly honest, especially in this section.


For companies that have yet to set an impact strategy, or for those who have only just set theirs and have made little progress since, use this section to outline each of your commitments and goals. If you’ve made any progress, no matter how small, think about highlighting whether or not that progress is setting you up to be on-target with your forecasted timeline. Additionally, ensure you describe to your readers how you set your goals; How did you identify and engage with your stakeholders to clarify which topics, issues, and programs are most material (important) for your business to address?


In the example of Bite, their strategy was only set in 2022, so their report falls in the bucket of the latter group described here. Take a look at a brief section from their progress page on environmental goals:


Lastly, publish your report and share it widely! Remember that these reports are great opportunities to share all of your positive progress toward a higher level of social and environmental sustainability.


To read Bite’s Impact Report in its entirety, view it on their website here.


Want help drafting your company’s annual impact report or impact summary before the end of the year? Schedule a free consultation with us here at Everoot to get working on publishing an annual sustainability report, benefit report, or impact scorecard.




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