Sustainability reports are a valuable tool for communicating a company’s commitment to ESG (Environment, Social, Governance). But how should it be communicated?
Communicating this document is no simple task, since it contains a wealth of information on the different aspects that constitute the company’s business.
Although this document is increasingly well-known, the ways in which the sustainability report is used are as diverse as ever. Investors, for example, are more interested in KPI analysis to check the company’s compliance with new regulations and how ESG criteria are integrated into the business, while customers are more sensitive to how the company manages to guarantee products and/or services that are sustainable in every respect.
There are many varied approaches, which is why it is very important to understand how to communicate the sustainability report so that every stakeholder can easily find the information that interests them.
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Making data understandable and intuitive
Regardless of the reader’s level of expertise, the first strategy for properly communicating the report is to make the data understandable and intuitive.
The sustainability report is a compendium of corporate activity in the economic, social, environmental and governance spheres, so it is full of specialized data and technical details.
Environmental impact, for example, can be monitored by measuring the three Scopes under the GHG Protocol in relation to the three categories of emissions generated by companies (direct, indirect and on the supply chain). This concept, which may seem obvious to those who report on environmental sustainability and to industry professionals, may not be immediately understood by all potential readers.
Communicating the sustainability report also requires commitment to inclusiveness. It means being able to communicate your commitment to everyone, so it is necessary to also make data and information accessible to those outside the industry.
How can this be done? There are several techniques and methods. The first tool that serves this purpose is undoubtedly to compile a glossary, usually included in the appendices to the report. This section gives an explanation of all the technical terms that recur in the document.
Another way to make the report more reader-friendly is to break up the wall of text by inserting graphic elements such as images and quotes, a perfect solution to visually reinforce the content expressed in words in a simple and immediate way. Any initiative or activity is immediately understandable when accompanied by a nice image or phrase that encapsulates its essence.
However, the trump card for simply and concisely communicating the wealth of information contained in the sustainability report is infographics, a tool for making complex concepts such as KPI monitoring or the company’s business model accessible to all.
Once the content of the report has been edited to make it a comprehensive, yet understandable document, all that remains is to share it with stakeholders.
Sharing it on the website and corporate channels
There are several channels through which you can communicate the sustainability report to your circle of stakeholders, first and foremost the company’s website.
The report is often included as a document that can be viewed online or downloaded from a sustainability page on the website or, better yet, in a section devoted to non-financial reporting.
However, there are other channels besides the website through which the sustainability report can be communicated. It is worth remembering that the stakeholders addressed by the document are highly diverse: from employees to customers, suppliers, investors, partners, and commissions awarding potential tenders.
Although reading the document is the most comprehensive and exhaustive way to locate the required information, time available for research is always limited, as is readers’ attention span, which tends to wane due to the multiple stimuli we are constantly subjected to. The key to communicating the sustainability report therefore lies in diversifying communication channels.
Rather than including the budget as a downloadable document from the corporate site, you may therefore decide to devote an entire page on the site to present it interactively through pictures, charts, videos or interviews in podcast format. Other options – also of a digital nature – include publishing in-depth articles in the company blog or devoting a dedicated edition of the company newsletter to the sustainability report.
Another valuable channel available to companies that wish to communicate the sustainability report is social media accounts. This world makes it possible to capture users’ attention and encourage them to consult the report, as well as, more importantly, to monitor their reactions to the content.
You may therefore decide to develop a full-fledged communication campaign on social media by creating specific graphics and hashtags dedicated to communicating the sustainability report in a simple, quick and captivating way. Additionally, the methods offered by each social media channel can be leveraged to maximize the communicative effectiveness of each platform. LinkedIn, for example, permits creation of surveys to poll users’ knowledge of the report, while Instagram is more suitable for posting stories and reels.
The sustainability report can also be communicated through an event to announce its publication and preview its content to guests. Again, there are a variety of approaches to choose from: The event can be held in-person, online, or in hybrid mode; the presentation can be given by the company CEO, the team that prepared the report, or multiple stakeholders, through a face-to-face (one-to-many) or interactive and engaging dynamic.
Other more classic, but equally valid tools include sharing the sustainability report via a corporate video or through more traditional media, such as press releases, billboards or radio and television commercials.
Naturally, there is also no shortage of the exact opposite, namely the development of more creative and provocative ideas such as guerilla marketing strategies. On the other hand, given that the sustainability report is often perceived as a long, boring document, making it dynamic and engaging by giving free rein to the creativity of the Marketing & Communications department can be an effective strategy for the most daring and enterprising companies.
Following these tips can certainly help effectively communicate the sustainability report, but for companies operating in international markets, the key lies in translating the document into English or other languages.
Translating it into English
Translating the sustainability report into English is a winning move for two reasons: it allows you to strengthen your relationship with stakeholders, while also tapping into new economic and financial opportunities.
For companies already operating in international markets, translating the sustainability report is a sign of transparency and respect to stakeholders who speak a different language. Making the information contained in the report available in a language the reader can understand facilitates consultation and concretely attests to the company’s commitment to inclusiveness, which is an implicit aspect of sustainability.
This triggers a virtuous cycle that reinforces trust in the company, optimizes its reputation and, more importantly, strengthens its relationship with stakeholders.
So why translate the report into English?
English is the preeminent language of the financial world, and since sustainability has now become a topic of regulatory compliance in this area, it is only natural that most companies wish to have their sustainability report translated into English.
It is therefore clear that translation into English serves as a lever for accessing new opportunities. A sustainability report translated into English can be accessed by a much wider audience of people: investors looking for new companies to include in their investment portfolios, virtuous companies wishing to consolidate their sustainable supply chain with suppliers aligned with the same values, or even potential customers willing to purchase services and products made in a sustainable way.
While translation into English is undoubtedly the first step in raising a company’s profile in the rest of the world, where there is a need to expand business in a specific market, it may also be worth translating the sustainability report into the language spoken in the local context. As a rule, people always prefer to consult information in their native language.
At Way2Global, we do just that. We have translated sustainability reports (and all types of reports) in over 50 language combinations for over 30 years. Financial translations are our core business, and sustainability is the hallmark of our corporate culture, which is why we voluntarily prepare a sustainability report every year. We firmly believe that it is a valuable tool for co-designing strategic development together with stakeholders and also promoting a sustainable reporting culture.
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