by Kellie Friery

May 24, 2022

Congratulations on finishing (or getting close to finishing) your ESG Report! Whether this is your first, fifth or fifteenth report, a successful launch is a big accomplishment and step forward in your sustainability journey. But what comes next? First, we encourage you to take a well-deserved break, celebrate your team and give your stakeholders a chance to digest the information. However, we also understand the value of the “offseason” and making the best use of the time before you start serious planning for the next report. Like they say about great athletes, musicians and dancers – it’s not during the performance where they get better; it’s the practice and preparation leading up to it.

If you want to up your ESG game, consider the work you can do during the reporting “offseason.” These steps will look different for every company, but there are key questions all ESG teams can discuss to help you plan for and deliver your best ESG report yet – and hopefully with less challenge and stress.

1. DEBRIEF. Reflecting on this year’s report development process, what worked well and what could be improved? What changes can the team implement to make the process more efficient? A debrief session with the full team can be especially helpful in planning your approach for next year.

2. INTEGRATE. How is content shared outside of the report? ESG should be included in your ongoing strategic communications and not just an annual reporting event. How do you plan to integrate ESG messaging into your regular investor communications, recruiting materials, website, social media content, corporate blog, etc.?

3. MEASURE. What is the feedback from your key stakeholders (e.g., investors, customers, employees, company leadership, ESG ratings, )? As you are talking with stakeholders throughout the year, look for ways to add ESG topics and reporting to the conversation. In fact, you not only learn from these interactions, but you can get “credit” from raters and rankers for “stakeholder engagement.” Additionally, while ESG ratings shouldn’t drive your ESG performance and reporting strategy, it can be helpful to review and evaluate your efforts against raters’ expectations so you can address possible gaps in your next report.

4. MAINTAIN. You have worked hard to open the lines of communication between your ESG team and subject matter experts during the report project, but are you keeping them open throughout the year? Maintaining communication outside of reporting season can help the team improve data collection, gather success stories and images in real-time, and enhance the overall quality and delivery of your report.

5. CHALLENGE. Is your strategy still appropriate for where you are on your ESG journey? Should you establish or update your goals? Are the existing material topics still relevant or should they be refreshed?  While not every year needs to be filled with major change, challenging where you are to ensure your disclosures are aligned with where you are headed is critical to continuing to make progress on your ESG journey.

The ESG reporting “offseason” is here for some of us and approaching fast for others. Make good use of the time and the opportunity to think strategically. The “new season” will be here before you know it!

Want to talk about how to maximize the impact of the ESG reporting offseason? Contact me or connect with my Dix & Eaton colleagues at The NIRI National Conference in Boston June 5-8 . We’d love to hear from you!