Ideas and insights > 4 ways to maximize the value of your ESG report

4 ways to maximize the value of your ESG report

Our thought leader:

Martha Marchesi
Martha Marchesi
CEO

Published on:

As mandates for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting spread steadily across the globe, companies across all industries are diving into the ESG pool. In fact, 95% of large companies published ESG reports in 2021, and a 2022 study by Morningstar found that 90% of all companies have or are developing a formal ESG strategy.

Your ESG report holds a lot of value for your business and brand by making your goals and progress clear and quantifiable. But if you’re not communicating your impact in emotionally driven, relevant ways, you may not be maximizing its value.

These four strategies can help you transform your ESG information into inspiration—and make powerful connections with your customers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders.

1. Infuse meaning and emotion into your metrics

While quantitative data is a vital part of your ESG report, research shows that emotions play a crucial role in driving brand loyalty. And because storytelling activates parts of the brain involved in emotional processing, it can be a very effective way to make your ESG efforts more compelling and memorable—and your brand more attractive—to your target audiences.

To unlock the emotional power of your ESG report, tell stories that put a human face on your ESG achievements:

  • Use your company blog to spotlight some of the communities positively impacted by your responsible sourcing policies or investments.
  • Ask employees to shoot short smartphone videos for your social media about the company-sponsored environmental projects for which they’ve volunteered.
  • Design posters or plasma screens featuring employee quotes about their personal connection to specific ESG initiatives; these can be displayed in your workplaces to engage and inspire your people.
  • Deploy a customer email or e-newsletter highlighting the real-world results of your ESG commitments, like cleaner local water or a more diverse workforce.

These people-focused stories can help make your audiences view your company more positively, feel more personally invested in your ESG efforts, and understand and relate to your ESG strategy more easily—in ways a long, data-stuffed report can’t accomplish as effectively.

2. Engage employees

An ESG report is not just an external communication tool—it’s an internal one, too. After all, studies have found that most employees want to work for companies that share their values and prioritize ESG performance. Your ESG report is a way to demonstrate both.

When your people feel connected to and passionate about your company’s ESG strategy, it can inspire them to get involved with your ESG projects and even make them feel more satisfied at work. But just as your customers may not be motivated to wade through a lengthy document densely packed with graphs and tables, your employees have other things competing for their limited reading time (and mental energy).

To help engage employees in your ESG story, use your official report as a springboard for more digestible, interactive, and entertaining communications and activities:

  • Organize an event or series of events to launch your ESG report, featuring guest speakers, workshops, and more. Focus on helping employees understand the importance of your ESG efforts, the impact they are having, and the part they play.
  • Host team meetings (live and/or virtual) to discuss specific topics from the report, what they mean for their department, and how employees can get involved. Make sure they feel free to express their ideas—and confident that company leaders will hear and respond to them.
  • Transform key ESG data into engaging infographics or videos that can be shared on internal platforms. These bite-sized pieces make important information from your ESG report much easier to consume.
  • Consider recruiting “ESG report ambassadors” from different departments who can help create these materials and educate their colleagues about your ESG strategy.

3. Don’t say ESG (all the time)

Even if your company has published an official ESG report, you might not want to use those three letters in all your communications.

Some companies avoid the acronym altogether in light of recent political scrutiny of ESG reporting and investing. But it can also be beneficial to use terminology that more accurately captures the breadth of your sustainability, social responsibility, and good governance initiatives; that helps differentiate your messaging or resonates more with certain stakeholders.

And if you’re highlighting specific initiatives or efforts, describing them in more specific terms can help make your communications clearer.

Consider tailoring your ESG communications to your audiences, topics, and communications channels. Other descriptive terms for your efforts and programs include:

  • Sustainability
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Corporate citizenship
  • Ethical commitment
  • Social impact
  • Social good
  • Impact initiatives
  • Green
  • Environmentally responsible
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Purpose-driven

Or get creative! Your company’s ESG story should reflect your unique brand identity, so think about how you can describe your company’s efforts in ways that are authentic to your brand—while still being relevant and understandable to your audiences.

4. Keep the conversation going

Your ESG strategy is an ongoing commitment, so it shouldn’t be limited to a once-a-year document. Instead, invite feedback and foster engagement with your customers, employees, and other stakeholders all year long.

Here are a few ideas for using your internal and external communications channels to keep the conversation going:

  • Create a dedicated ESG portal on your company website. It can include regular updates on your progress, a form for stakeholder questions and input, videos highlighting your ESG projects, interactive tools like carbon footprint calculators, and infographics that make your data engaging and easy to understand.
  • Organize town hall meetings where your company leadership discusses ESG progress and takes live questions.
  • Invite experts to lead external workshops where stakeholders can learn and discuss various ESG-related topics.
  • Release quarterly mini-reports or updates on your company’s ESG progress.

By promoting ongoing two-way communication with your stakeholders, you can build trust and show that your organization is committed to continuous improvement.

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