October 4, 2023
As we enter the fourth quarter of 2023, Dix & Eaton recommends companies begin planning for their next ESG/sustainability report. This is a great opportunity to engage your reporting team and lay the groundwork for your report strategy. You can also start thinking through some of the challenges you may encounter (and how to address them) throughout the process. For example, if you consistently scramble over the last few weeks of the report process or miss your launch deadline altogether, starting sooner, even if it’s just planning and internal alignment, can make a difference.
Before you begin your next ESG/sustainability report, consider answering these four questions:
1. What are the strengths of your last report?
When planning your next report, start on a positive note. What have you achieved so far, both as a reporting team and a company? Identifying your report’s strengths also provides a good foundation for what you should continue to do and build upon. In addition, feedback from stakeholders is a useful way to address this question, and it is something you can do now before kicking off the report process. Find out what they liked about your report to determine what’s working well.
2. What gaps or enhancements should you address in your next report?
Stakeholder feedback is also helpful when building your list of opportunities for improvement. A few gaps or enhancements we often discuss with clients include:
- More fulsome alignment with standards (SASB, TCFD, GRI) and ratings disclosures
- Materiality (either first-time assessment or a timely update)
- Stronger narrative and visuals around climate strategy and performance
- Streamlining content to minimize redundancies
- Reorganization of report content/structure to reflect highest priorities and/or areas of progress
Identifying these opportunities early on allows more time for thoughtful discussion, planning and execution. ESG/sustainability reporting is a team sport, and it can often take the engagement of many to close these gaps.
3. What emerging or hot button issues should you begin thinking about how to address?
While your material topics should not drastically change year-over-year, societal issues and other external factors and trends can impact your business and approach to ESG. In recent years, multiple topics have emerged to become priority areas for disclosure, including the pandemic, social justice, climate change and supply chain disruption. Human rights, labor relations, biodiversity, cybersecurity and a looming recession are all topics that have been in the background for many companies but could become bigger focus areas in the 2023 reporting season.
In addition, if your company completed a significant acquisition, restructuring or leadership transition during the year, begin thinking about how this could impact your report narrative, ESG goals and data.
4. Is your report format and delivery meeting the needs of your stakeholders?
As my colleague Gregg LaBar noted in his recent blog post, we are seeing more reports move to a landscape (horizontal) format to align with computer and tablet screens. Most people will view your report digitally and developing your report in this format allows you to incorporate section navigation more easily. This format often allows for more scannable content, all of which enhance ease of use.
A few other questions to ask when evaluating format and delivery are:
- Is your report easily findable and usable on your corporate and/or investor relations website?
- Do you have supplemental materials available for those who want a quick snapshot, data only or a deep dive on one topic? (i.e., executive/data summary, standalone SASB/TCFD/GRI indices, topical factsheets)
- Is your report compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) measures for PDF accessibility for the visually impaired? This is becoming a best practice that also has legal and compliance ramifications. Start asking questions now so you can start planning for the right solution for your organization.
Want to learn more about how to prepare for your next ESG/sustainability report? It’s not too late or too early to contact me.