A sustainability report encapsulates a company’s ethos, i.e., the commitment and energy it invests in generating economic, social and environmental value. It is therefore reasonable to ask how to translate this document in a way that properly conveys such important content in other languages.
Translating a text into another language is always a delicate game of compromises, since it is well known that different cultures express themselves in different ways and with different registers. Thus, merely transposing words in a literal way is not a viable option, especially if the ultimate goal is to convey the message with the same intention and effectiveness as in the original language.
If the text needing translation is a sustainability report, the scenario becomes even more complex. The report is a technical document full of specific terms pertaining to very different areas, which is why its translation requires specialized notions and extensive expertise.
Before considering how to approach translation of a sustainability report, it is first necessary to take a step back and identify the most appropriate languages for its translation.
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Assess the target markets
Companies often take the decision to translate the sustainability report into English for granted. While this is a legitimate choice, more thought and evaluation is required to determine whether it is appropriate to prepare translations of the report in other languages as well.
Although English is now widely used, it is important to keep in mind that most people prefer to consult documents and content in their native language rather than in a language in which they are not fully proficient, especially if the document is as critically important as a sustainability report.
So how do you decide which languages to choose for translating the report?
Two areas must be considered for this assessment: markets already served and potential targets for future expansion.
The first consideration is the purpose of the report. The sustainability report is not just a reporting document, but also a channel for communicating with stakeholders. This is why the best choice is to translate the report into the languages of the target countries. And doing so requires a thorough analysis of the target markets.
This might seem obvious, yet there are many companies that have little idea of the geographic location of their stakeholders and the languages they speak. To translate a document as important as the sustainability report, you cannot rely on intuition, but must have objective data.
An important component of the sustainability report helps in this regard. One of the first steps in drafting it is to map stakeholders and identify those most relevant to the company. This analysis is critical for objectively profiling your stakeholder network and, consequently, identifying the most effective languages for your communication purposes.
Translating the sustainability report into stakeholders’ language is an investment that offers several advantages. First, it complies with the transparency principle, which is one of the compliance requirements that applies to preparation of the report. Second, it makes the text more accessible to readers, thereby increasing brand reputation. Finally, it supports the loyalty process, which also has positive economic repercussions.
The other area of strategic analysis underlying the choice of languages for translating the sustainability report concerns the target markets into which the company wants to expand. To fuel growth, every company is constantly looking for new business and financial opportunities abroad, so why not take full advantage of this valuable channel?
Translating the sustainability report into the language of a potential customer, supplier or investor is the first strategic action in which to invest. Nowadays, people prefer to turn to companies that prioritise sustainability, so disseminating and promoting the report is a great way to raise the profile of the company, the services and products it offers and, above all, the social and environmental impact it generates.
Once you have assessed the markets and identified the suitable languages for the report’s translation, you can proceed to the implementation stage: turning to a translation agency.
Rely on a translation agency
The sustainability report is a very complex document, as is its translation, which is why it is fundamental to turn to a translation agency. How can you choose the right agency? You simply have to check that it complies with four requirements.
The first concerns availability of a large network of native translators who specialize in this type of translation. Simply being a professional translator is not enough to translate a sustainability report; in-depth knowledge of finance and, specifically, issues related to non-financial reporting is required.
Translators accredited by translation agencies are screened based on all these characteristics. They are selected on the basis of a thorough assessment of degrees, qualifications, skills and experience.
The second requirement to consider when choosing a translation agency concerns ISO Certifications, which guarantee the quality of the final translation through compliance with existing processes. In addition to requiring that a specialized translation such as the sustainability report be assigned to a professional with expertise in the field, the certifications also call for a series of formal checks on the work cycle by experienced professionals such as the reviser and proofreader. It is the presence of these controls that ensures the quality of the final translation. Although the translators are all experienced professionals equipped with the necessary tools to minimize oversights and errors, it is the intervention of third-party specialists who oversee proofreading and quality control with a critical distance from the text that ensures an outstanding result.
The third requirement to evaluate when choosing a translation agency is whether it has an in-house graphics department. Every language uses a different number of words to express the same concept, which is why the length of the sustainability report often varies in translation, possibly compromising the document’s original graphic layout. Turning to an agency with an in-house DTP department means getting a final turnkey translation, since finalizing the layout is part of the agency’s work cycle, saving valuable time and effort for the client.
Finally, there is the fourth and final requirement on the list, which, while optional, is perhaps the most important, given the nature of the document we are discussing. Namely, the agency’s commitment to sustainability.
How does the company conduct its business? What impact does it have on the community? How is it committed to protecting the environment? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when evaluating the sustainability profile of the translation agency to which you entrust your report.
Only a translation agency that puts sustainability at the centre of its business can prove to be an excellent language partner best suited to translating this type of report.
At Way2Global, we meet all the mandatory and optional requirements to translate the sustainability report. For more than 30 years we have been providing our clients with financial translations, our core business, translating more than 200 financial statements each year. We have an extensive network of specialized native translators and linguists, three ISO Certifications and an in-house DTP department. Last but not least, through our rebirth in 2017 as a Società Benefit, we have embraced sustainability to such an extent that it has become a constituent, programmatic and vocational category of our services and activities.
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