Best Practices for Sustainability Report Design

Sustainability & ESG, Creative, Guides / March 7, 2024

By Adam Franke

A well-crafted ESG report employs simple and precise language, well-organized sections, and visual aids to efficiently communicate information to stakeholders.

Adhering to the best practices outlined below can enhance the design of your report, enabling stakeholders to gain a better understanding of your company’s sustainability initiatives and their impact.

Choose a horizontal page format for your report

Using a horizontal or “landscape” page format aligns with computer screens and laptops. This minimizes scrolling and takes advantage of a full-screen view, which is the preferred orientation for most reports published today.

Create a clear report structure and supporting navigation

To make your report easy to read and understand, it’s important to create a clear structure based on the main topic areas of your report. Since most sustainability report have adopted a PDF format, we recommend a global navigation system that supports this structure. It’s also a good idea to include hyperlinks that allow readers to quickly jump to different parts of the report or external resources like websites and videos for more information.

Include visual breathing space

Whitespace not only creates harmony and balance; it also leads readers from one element to another. The use of whitespace can help to balance out dense content, making it more dramatic and important. For example, we created visually spacious opener pages for each section of the Fortune Brands ESG Report. This made key topics easier to understand and absorb when they were presented in a simplified way.

Aggregate data and highlight progress

Data and metrics play a crucial role in telling your ESG story. Your stakeholders are keen on knowing about your progress, so it’s essential to be transparent and realistic about what you know and what you don’t. It’s important to showcase the direction in which you are heading, even if measuring or benchmarking is challenging. Highlight key statistics, ongoing progress, and peer comparisons throughout the report while maintaining transparency.

Create and select quality imagery

The quality of the images included in your report can significantly impact your company’s brand. However, many companies tend to rely too heavily on stock photography and images captured by employee smartphones. While convenient they may not always be the best solution. It’s not uncommon to see the same stock images being used across multiple reports, even within the same peer group. Smartphone images often have low resolution and are poorly lit or cropped.

Our photography team has captured hundreds of photos and videos for our clients. We have also assisted clients in hiring independent photographers to capture their employees, processes, and facilities. We ensure consistent style through photo guidelines. The images can be used for corporate communications to demonstrate their commitment to ESG.

To learn more read our article on Strategies for Impactful ESG Images or Sustainability Photos.

Deepen the impact of your ESG story

Amplify your sustainability accomplishments to investors, employees, and suppliers. ESG marketing can provide new opportunities to share the highlights and ongoing ESG efforts within your company. This allows for easy and understandable ways to communicate important ESG messages and future goals, which will keep your stakeholders engaged and will enhance the company’s brand image and reputation.

Also consider creating a thought leadership campaign or promotion through traditional and digital media. Additionally, awareness and engagement programs and campaigns can be helpful in spreading the word.  

To learn more read our article on How to Market Your ESG Strategy to Stakeholders.