by Gregg LaBar

May 21, 2024

The length of the average sustainability report has been steadily increasing – the average length of U.S. sustainability reports surpassed 80 pages in 2023. This is according to the executive consulting firm Teneo, as reported in an October 2023 fact sheet published by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

Companies and their sustainability/ESG, communications, EHS, legal teams pour their heart and soul into the report. And, when it’s done, there is a strong sense of accomplishment and relief, and a readiness to move on to other things (and hopefully some PTO!). And, after all that, who (or what artificial intelligence/machine learning tool) is actually reading that long report?

And how well does the big report serve key stakeholders’ needs, answer their questions and enable the company to put its best foot forward? Let’s face it, probably not. No single document could do that consistently for a multitude of stakeholders.

What you probably need in addition is an annual communications plan that considers all your key stakeholders, the various channels available to you, and, of course, a well-thought-out timeline so that you are building on foundational materials over time, not trying to do everything at once and not leaving long gaps with no communication.

At Dix & Eaton, we call that communications planning and execution of the ongoing plan “making good use of the reporting off-season.” And, depending on your needs, it could include a variety of activities and tools:


  • Evaluation of and updates to your strategy and/or material topics – this work is done best when it is planful and thorough, not while also working on a deadline-driven report
  • Intranet updates to keep employees engaged and involved
  • A consistent leadership and all-employee engagement program that enables colleagues at all levels to champion initiatives that support your sustainability priorities


  • Direct, one-on-one outreach to key stakeholders – for example, customers, investors, partners, communities and public officials who follow your company closely (or who you wish were following your company closely)
  • Regional or country-specific supplements or fact sheets
  • Presentation version of the report that includes modules for easy integration into other company presentations
  • Executive summary or fact sheet that could be distributed at your locations, career fairs and customer and partner meetings
  • Creation of an index or scorecard to enable stakeholders, particularly ESG raters and investors, to find key data points, facts and policies, which may be stretched across multiple online documents and links
  • Ongoing website additions and enhancements, including a “what’s new” feature for new programs, milestones and awards that develop throughout the year
  • Business resource group (BRG) programs, community engagement days and special events that involve partners, customers and NGOs – to multiply the reach and impact of your organization’s efforts

Need more ideas or implementation support? Contact me and let’s talk about what’s possible. But don’t wait too long because, as we all know, the next reporting season always seems to come up sooner than we think.