ESG reporting: how to tell your story

Hong Tin Wei
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You cannot get into a conversation with a business leader today without the topic swerving into ESG within the first 15min.

With so many wanting to do the same, it is easy for even the most glossy-paged sustainability report to get crowded out. How do you tell the story of your ESG results in a way that is both informative and engaging?

Here are five tips to help you improve your ESG reporting:

Use a framework

There are a number of ESG frameworks available, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the suggestions from the Taskforce on Climate Financial Disclosure (FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)).

These frameworks can provide a helpful structure for your reporting, but are also flexible enough for companies to tailor them to suit their own needs. For example, in determining what metrics to use to measure performance in a firm's ESG effort, many companies are using industry-specific metrics from Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB Standards).

While SASB's metrics are industry-specific, many of those doing reports also mix and match standards across industries to arrive at a report that best represents their business.

Relate your ESG performance with financial results

Investors are increasingly interested in companies that are committed to sustainability. But they also want to see that ESG performance is good for the bottom line, and both demands are definitely not mutually exclusive. Show how your ESG initiatives are contributing to financial performance, and you'll be more likely to attract and retain investors.

Examples such as how a sustainable freighting service (electric vans) can charge a premium and thereby increase your overall margin can go a long way in persuading your investors that being sustainable is good for business.

Visualise your performance

Data tables can be helpful for regulators and other stakeholders who need detailed information. But for the general public, visualisations are often a more effective way to communicate ESG performance.

Use charts, graphs, and other visuals to help your audience understand your ESG impact. What investors want is also a good database of metrics where they can keep their own record of your performance - consider allowing downloads of your data in popular database formats such as csv.

Keeping it simple. 

In a bid to exude sophistication, more and more companies are crafting their ESG reports with superfluous statements of what sustainability means to them. Their reports are looking increasing like a coffee-table decor and ironically not being very ecologically sensitive (even if they are printed on the most sustainably sourced materials).

A good report is succinct and the reported metrics should immediately be relatable to stakeholders who know the company's business.

Always reiterate what your company wants to achieve. 

Don't just focus on the numbers in your ESG report. Take the time to explain how your ESG performance is contributing to your organisation's overall mission and goals. This will help your audience understand the importance of your ESG work and how it is making a difference.

ESG reporting can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to tell your company's story in a way that is both informative and engaging. By following these tips, you can create an ESG report that will help you achieve your sustainability goals and build trust with your stakeholders.