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Turning Up the Volume on Your Annual CSR/Sustainability Report

September 5, 2019

Releasing a CSR/sustainability report has been table stakes for companies for many years. Today, 93% of the world’s 250 largest companies and 86% of S&P 500 Index® Companies issue such a report. But given the substantial time and budget they put into this annual exercise, it’s surprising how often they leave stones unturned when it comes to sharing their reports with key stakeholders and making sure that their key messages resonate with the audiences that matter most.

After all that hard work, your brand deserves to get as much mileage as possible out of your annual CSR/sustainability report. Here are a few tips that can help you do just that.

Build an amplification strategy before you begin writing

A journalist considers her objectives and approach before ever putting pen to paper. Why should a CSR/sustainability communications leader operate any differently? Some extra thought on the front end about how your report will be used can help benefit – and streamline – the writing process.

Before you craft a report outline, consider brainstorming with internal stakeholders to define your key audiences and clearly outline any significant announcements or news from the past year that could become headlines. Putting in this effort before you start writing can help your brand be more strategic about the execution and flow of your report, as well as your timeline and focus areas.

It’s been a long time since simply launching a report has been newsworthy. But, if your report contains new announcements or commitments, there may be opportunities to attract media attention to its release. Savvy companies sometimes hold back sustainability commitments so they can announce them with their sustainability reports. This, obviously, increases the odds that media will take interest in other elements of your report. Paid integrations and third-party content in support of the key messages within your report can also turn up the volume on your accomplishments.

In addition, as you plan your report consider ways to shape and present key information that will translate well beyond traditional media. For example, look for opportunities to present key content graphically to make your report more compelling for social and digital audiences, too.

Engage new audiences in meaningful ways

Don’t just share your CSR and sustainability news with sustainability media outlets. Think holistically about who your brand aims to reach and who might benefit from hearing about your commitments to people, planet and sound governance. Are there key messages in your report that can show policymakers your company’s leadership on white-hat issues? Would other messages resonate with the key communities where your operations are located? How are you leveraging your report with investors – an audience with a growing appetite for responsibly managed companies?

And don’t make the mistake of overlooking your internal audiences. Employees, from executive to junior-level, can be the best advocates for your brand. Arm them with all the great things you’re doing by making sure they are familiar with the content in your latest report. Are there key messages that can be shared with team leaders? Could your CEO discuss key report content in an upcoming town hall? Would elevator wraps or floor decals help reinforce your team members’ understanding of your company’s CSR/sustainability work? Nearly 40% of millennials have chosen a job at least in part because of a company’s dedication to sustainability; leverage this annual record of your accomplishments to build pride in your company and promote employee retention.

Leverage report content over time

While launch moments are important, much of the content in your CSR/sustainability report has a fairly long shelf life. Consider re-sharing data points in your report about diversity, equity and inclusion on such relevant occasions as International Women’s Day and Veteran’s Day. Comb your report for news and media angles that could be pitched during Climate Week (September) or on Earth Day (April).

Crafting a robust social media calendar will help ensure that you leverage your messages throughout the year and multiply your opportunities to showcase your brand’s commitment to CSR/sustainability.

It is easier to eat a steak than a whole cow

Let’s face it – very few people who aren’t intimately connected to your business are going to read your CSR/sustainability report in full. Creating an executive summary or a series of one-page infographics or issue briefs will help you tell the most compelling stories from your report year-round. These resources can be shared online as separate downloadable files, distributed to media alongside pitches and shared with policymakers or community groups to highlight the common ground you share with them on key issues. Make it easy for your most important stakeholders to sink their teeth into your successes.

These ideas are just a starting point; hopefully they’ve primed the pump for more tactics that can help increase your return on this important investment. Best of luck as you launch and amplify your next report!