How do I report information that meets stakeholder needs?

Published 21st July 2016 by Lucy Haines

Many of us in the sustainability sector are in the middle of a busy sustainability and carbon reporting cycle be it for regulatory purposes – such as the CRC, MGHGR or one of numerous disclosure and ranking schemes – such as DJSI, FTSE4Good, GRESB, CDP, or perhaps for our own public reporting purposes. 

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For many of these we keep doing what we did last year, because that worked. We are so deep in ensuring that data is flowing from the organisation into the reports, that we forget to ask, what it is all for?

If you are going to put all that effort in, you want to make sure that you are going to get positive results – and that doesn’t mean reporting all of the data that you have in the hope that some of it hits the right audience! As with an athlete training for the Olympics, the preparation starts as soon as the previous race is over with the questions: “How can I do better? How can I prepare better? How can I deliver what my fans, my sponsors and the world wants to see?”. So let’s have a look at each of those…

  1. Who is the audience? Take the time with the rest of the team to find out who is interested, why they are interested and personalise them. How do you visualise your typical: corporate investor; individual investor; customer; employee; regulator; supplier; JV Partner; pressure group; etc.
  1. What do they want to see? For each personality understand what question(s) they are trying to answer by finding out more about you: Is it strength of the strategy? Is it long-term vision co-ordination? Is it risk management? Is it opportunity identification? Is it understanding ability to adapt to change? Or simply regulatory breach management?
  1. Where and how can I best display that? For each personality, explore how they would prefer to see/find that information that is easy and meaningful for them. Is it through regular updates and new stories? Is it through year-on-year comparisons? Is it just through good news, or acceptance of current challenges? Can it be enhanced by asking for support, or offering help? Is it through the provision of specific detailed data, or presentation of results and trends?
  1. How do I prepare? You will have already spotted that we are not sprinters, or high jumpers – but decathletes. We need to be adept at taking on a number of different challenges, with different techniques,and different outcomes in order to be able to achieve what we set out to achieve. This is where the support infrastructure is critical – and is something that you can start shaping, or reshaping, NOW. 
    • You need to have the whole organisation from the top management to the grass roots supporting you appropriately. 
    • You need to have information and systems that help you: constantly build the picture; allow you to understand where your performance is strong, and where more support is needed; adapt to changing conditions; deliver what is needed for each of the above personalities when they expect – be it at the qualifying stages, heats or finals.

Tempting though it may be once you have finished the current reporting race to say “Phew, I don’t have to do any of that for six months”, NOW is actually the time that the winners REALLY develop. Run a lessons learned exercise; Review the audience, the channels to use, and the story you want to tell, and; ensure that your infrastructure and systems are improved to help support you to deliver a podium-worthy result that reflects the effort that you have put in. Nothing crushes good results like poor preparation and planning.

Find out more about the next step towards intelligent sustainability in our next blog – How do I make business more resource efficient and save money?

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