Why You Need Sustainability Reporting & Storytelling

by Oct 4, 2018

Shelton Insight

Sustainability represents our path forward as a nation that cares for the environment, and ties into the belief that there’s a shared responsibility for what happens next. Indeed, sentiment for this word has improved significantly since 2015, when our Eco Pulse Buzzwords report found that 59% of Americans felt positively about “sustainability.” In 2017, 70% of respondents rated it positively. (Shelton Eco Pulse 2017).

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Sustainability Win of the Week

While reporting is no substitute for storytelling, it’s critical. If you can’t articulate your sustainability and CSR goals in numerical form and report progress on or hurdles in the way of them, then you probably don’t have a substantive program and shouldn’t be trying to do any storytelling. Bottom line: have a program worthy of a report, and start making the reports for NGOs, investors, potential partners/supply chain members and even future employees. Then do your storytelling to key stakeholders.

As you head into reporting, there are a few recent items to be aware of:

– From Eco-Act: “The ‘Sustainability Reporting Performance’ report, which ranks Dow 30 companies on their sustainable business practices, finds that despite a lack of mandatory reporting regulations on climate risk, 100% of Dow 30 companies publicly report carbon emissions.” Bottom line, look at the reports for the top 10 here and emulate them.

– The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA; funded by Aviva and the governments of the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Denmark, among others): Aimed at encouraging businesses to stay focused on achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2015, the WBA debuted this past week during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The WBA’s intent is to provide clarity on what society expects from businesses with regard to SDGs and believes its efforts will promote competition within the business sector to achieve higher benchmark scores.

– From KPMG: Speaking of the SDGs, earlier this year KPMG published a study that “explains how to report on the SDGs, where to start and what good looks like.” While 40% of companies acknowledge the SDGs in their reporting, less than 10% have set specific and measurable business performance targets related to the SDGs. Companies are thinking about them and talking about them, but they’re not setting targets and reporting on them.

So, create serious goals and metrics, ideally connected to the SDGs as recommended by the WBA and KPMG, and report on them in high-quality fashion as noted by Eco-Act. Then tell your story! Less than 8% of Americans could match more than half of the companies we tested with the stand they’ve taken. In fact, if you look at the top three companies Eco-Act calls out as exemplary in their reporting, only one makes the list of brands Americans tell us they’ve purposely bought because of their stand. So, two of the top three are missing out on fully leveraging the powerful things they’re doing for the environment and for society. And that’s just a shame.

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News of the Week

Top sustainable companies: Duke Energy makes it 13 years in a row – PR Newswire

Speaking of companies with strong sustainability stories and the metrics to back them up, Duke Energy was recently named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for North America for the 13th year in a row. The DJSI rates companies’ progress in the areas of corporate citizenship, environmental policy and climate strategy, among others. We’ve seen some of Duke Energy’s progress firsthand in our work with them, so we’re happy to share their news.

IKEA going all electric with fleet vehicles, installing chargers at every store – Inside EVs

IKEA is going all electric – switching over its entire fleet of store and home delivery vehicles with electric cars. The transportation and infrastructure changes will be implemented company-wide, in all 350+ stores and 30 markets. The company hopes to make the switch in the next 10 years and is currently pursuing investment and partnership opportunities to aid the transition.

Do consumers really care whether brands take a stand?

Yes, they do. But your brand can’t choose just any stand and expect them to love you for it. Learn how social purpose can create connection with consumers.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.