We thought hard before posting this – it sounds a bit like shameless business development when we advise businesses to start reporting early. And 10 months early, too?!
But, allow me to forge ahead!
The dust has barely settled on the last report and it’s time to begin planning the next. Why?
- Engage your colleagues. Starting early will reduce the headaches from colleagues claiming they were not aware of what was expected of them. Data and information collection is a big part of the Content Management stages of a Sustainability Report.
A big enemy in the Reporting battlefield is uncooperative colleagues. Just when you thought that data was secured and on its way, the contact over in HR says the new Enterprise Management Software sprang a leak and they need to re-do it.
Just when you thought you could talk about that supply chain initiative as a core part of a section in your report, the legal team pipe up that it’s embargoed for a legal reason.
If you align with the Annual Report calendar then you will be pleased if your timeline is relaxed, rather than squeezed. If you get squeezed later in the project then your families and consultants will be affected too! Best avoided!
Keeping the internal network alive is a real boon to reporting. Better cooperation, better content.
- Enough time to do materiality. Most reporters are by now bruised by the ‘materiality stick’ wielded by consultants around the world. It’s not without good reason though. Applying this core principle of reporting is vital to an effective Report delivered in line with target audience expectations.
Don’t forget all you SGX listed companies in Singapore: you will need to explain how you came up with the list of relevant issues to talk about in your Report.
- Save costs. I would say that wouldn’t I!? Well, the logical outcome from doing materiality well is normally a shorter report. That saves resources internally – who wants to waste time organising data for a report when it’s not relevant? You may still collect it internally because you’re managing the issue internally – but it may not be sufficiently ‘material’ to be covered in the sustainability report.
Being organised in what you want to achieve with the report, what content you expect, how many words it will be etc., will mean clarity in resourcing. Failing to plan is planning to fail (my old lecturer used to say).
- Content management. Again, sequentially and logically, once you know the key relevant subjects (or ‘topics’ in new GRI-speak) you will want to talk to the colleagues you have communicated with (see above).
Check who is on maternity leave, or on holiday. See if any staffing changes are on the horizon. What about assets – any changes to think about in terms of company structure or operational assets?
As scrutiny increases of supply chain management practices, you may need to think through how to collect management approach information on slightly newer issues of interest.
- Sort imagery. A report with a staid and tired look using repeated photography will lose credibility. Readers are human and they like to be inspired to open your report when the alternative is catching up with the latest fast cars on YouTube or kiddy bargains on Ebay.
So, by embarking early you can knock off a few of those slightly fiddly design tasks. Check in with marketing and communications colleagues about any new developments in branding at your company.
Sorting the design early will mean your Report will work harder for you – you will feel enamoured by it and want to take it with you wherever you go. The romance will blossom and you will feel that you and your Report will go far!
Ok, good luck, and you know where we are if you need any help!