by Nicole Popp

June 24, 2021

We make strategic decisions every day, from carefully thinking over our lunch order, to devising an unassailable game plan in the family Monopoly match. That strategic mindset is critical for thinking about how to start or elevate your sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting efforts.

Unfortunately, many companies do not nail the strategic planning and they are stuck in a never-ending scramble to gather material for their reports. It’s a struggle for first-time reporters, companies that are progressing in their journeys but are still putting all the pieces together, and even veteran reporters who have many information work streams and stakeholders to manage.

Start with some key questions: Where are you currently, where would you like to go with this, what can you put in place to get there, and what is your longer-term vision?

Here are four tips that we think will go a long way toward taking you on a successful journey.

  • Connect the sustainability plan with your business’ strategic priorities.
    • In many cases, ESG efforts will support and likely accelerate progress toward your company’s business goals and strategic objectives, and the reverse is probably also true. Look at what targets have already been established and accomplished and the role that ESG has played/can play in their success. This part is mostly a top-down process and requires executive support and involvement.
  • Gather information from everywhere and everyone.
    • Many sustainability issues are multisystemic in nature; they cannot be confined to one individual, division or discipline. This part is mostly bottom-up, as it is critical to hear a diversity of thoughts, ideas and concerns. Use every available means – existing information that can be repackaged, tap into already scheduled events and meetings, organize informal brainstorming sessions, convene the subject matter experts, conduct interviews and focus groups, and create drafts that challenge the status quo even if just to inspire dialogue and feedback. (People may not know how to answer your questions, but everyone has an opinion on something that you send to them to review!)
  • Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark.
    • The world of sustainability innovation is fast-moving. What was considered new and groundbreaking yesterday may be the industry standard today. Stay up to date with all the trends and standards. Pay close attention to what your peers and competitors are doing and what they say they are working on for the future. You do not have to follow them, but you should know where they are and how you fit into the overall landscape.
  • Develop measurable goals with numerical key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress.
    • Climate strategy, employee diversity, community engagement, human rights; these are all important topics to be addressed qualitatively. But how are you measuring progress and what are you hoping to accomplish? Who owns the data? What must change to make the goals achievable? How much, how fast?

Starting from scratch or looking to enhance your sustainability reporting strategy? Reach out to me to keep the conversation going, and check out our full range of sustainability/ESG communications capabilities.