Four Smart Ways to Share Your ESG Report

Sustainability & ESG, Guides / March 13, 2022

By Paul Gassett

smart reporting ecosystem infographic

The most common way for distributing your ESG report is the downloadable PDF. However, there are several other ways that can extend the ability to share your report and increase your stakeholder reach. This article will share some of those other ways.

While still voluntary, ESG and sustainability reporting is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception. The timing and frequency of ESG discussions are changing as interest and demand for reporting grows.

At the same time, reporting content continues to evolve and is shifting to an investor-first approach. This means investors and other stakeholders are expecting companies to report on their efforts toward ESG. Once considered a “nice to have”, ESG reporting is fast becoming a “must have”.

So, with the growing trend toward providing data on what companies, both public and private, are doing regarding their environmental, social and governance efforts, the natural question that follows is: What is the best way to formulate, or share, this information?

The first step is to determine what data or stories you wish to share. Our recent post on the 7 Step ESG Reporting Process, outlines how to go about selecting which of the many frameworks might make the most sense for you. It also provides guidelines to apply and how to best structure your report. Once this is complete, the decision regarding how to best communicate the data and stories in your ESG report comes into play.

7-Step ESG Reporting Process

7-Step ESG Reporting Process

The Science and Art of Developing Your ESG Report or Sustainability Report

Whether it’s your inaugural ESG report or one of many you’ve already produced, it is important to respect the process. Depending upon the goals of your company or organization, that process may range from the somewhat complicated to the extremely complex.

Our ESG Smart Reporting Ecosystem engages audiences through a variety of touchpoints

As the need for ESG reporting grows, there’s an increased importance to reach a range of audiences in a variety of ways. The more ways you share your ESG and sustainability findings, the better. 

Similar to benefits achieved from the practice of integrated marketing communications, sharing your ESG message across multiple media platforms strengthens the overall impact it has in the marketplace.

Below are four touchpoints ideal for extending the reach of your ESG report or sustainability report:

Interactive PDF example
Interactive PDF example of Fortune Brands’ latest ESG report.

Smart Reporting Touchpoint #1:

The ESG Report Interactive PDF

Downloadable PDFs are the most common and versatile touchpoint for delivering a report. They can be created in a variety of ways to make it easy to print, email, and post on a website or social media platform.

Because the length of reports continues to grow, a number of companies are creating interactive PDFs, which makes navigating through the numerous pages easier and faster for the reader.

The interactive PDF format delivers a dynamic user experience similar to a website. It delivers engagement with interactive components, such as page navigation, a clickable table of contents, internal and external links, video, animation, and much more. And PDFs can be produced with accessibility standards in mind to ensure access and usability by all audiences.

Benefits of the ESG Interactive PDF:

  • Delivers a user experience similar to a website which makes it easier for your audience to find the information they are looking for in one or two clicks.
  • Provides hyperlinks to external content as well as internal links within the report
ESG Report webpage example
ESG Report webpage example

Smart Reporting Touchpoint #2:

ESG Report Websites & Microsites

Online solutions, such as a website or microsite, offer immersive user experiences focused on your ESG data. These touchpoints also increase the likelihood of online searches leading to your site or microsite, providing the advantages of SEO (search engine optimization).

Website vs. microsite? What’s the difference?

A microsite, according to the Content Standard, is a branded digital asset that lives just outside of the company homepage or branded corporate or company website. This typically links to the primary company site or may even be a secondary page tied into the main site (ex: a page found on a company’s investor relations page). These sites may stay live for a specified period of time and may be focused on a particular goal, like raising awareness for an event, or testing copy for a sales strategy.

Benefits of an ESG Website or Microsite:

  • Options are almost limitless in terms of how you can organize and engage your audiences
  • With the web, it is possible to offer evergreen or real-time content and refresh other content to give your audience a reason to come back regularly
  • Allows for the benefits of SEO, leveraging the power of keywords

Microsites offer immersive user experiences focused on specific topics. These brand-specific websites are a great way to promote individual events, corporate reports or campaigns. Microsites can be anything from a single landing page to a series of pages focused on information sharing or storytelling. They are typically hosted on their own domain or a company’s subdomain and have a different URL than their company websites to further customize the experience.

In some instances, using the framework of an existing company website can offer the best experience for audiences. Since an established website provides familiarity, users feel comfortable navigating to unique campaign or report pages to find what they’re looking for.

While a company website can provide a logical home for communications, such as annual reports, sustainability reports, and strategic campaigns, it’s important to set this content apart with a unique and consistent template that fits the content at hand. It is critical to leverage the look and feel developed for the interactive PDF document.

ESG infographic example
ESG infographic example outlining a value creation model for a utility client.

Smart Reporting Touchpoint #3:

ESG Report Highlights & ESG Data Sheets

ESG and sustainability reports continue to grow in length as many companies report across an increasing number of frameworks.

The longer and more in-depth reporting results in more data and more stories to share… and while having more to share may be advantageous, it is not always quick or easy for busy readers to review.

It is unrealistic to expect consumers to read 30-40 pages of ESG reports which include lots of confusing metrics. Prepare a simplified version of your report for customers.

Since many readers or visitors to websites want to quickly digest a few key takeaways from an executive summary or view highlights from an ESG report, lengthy materials covering all aspects of sustainability are not always ideal. This particularly applies to investors.

Like a financial highlights page from an annual report, companies need to offer bite-size takeaways from their ESG reports for the viewer. To meet the demands for ESG reporting from the investment community and their customers, suppliers, and employees, providing audiences with different snapshots of key ESG highlights is critical.

Examples of these ESG Report highlights documents include:

Downloadable ESG Data Summary example

Downloadable ESG Data Summary: 

This touchpoint provides your institutional investor audience a quick way to see your ESG data over a one, three or five-year time horizon. It strips away the other ESG content and only focuses on ESG data offering a quick way to gauge performance.

Downloadable ESG Highlights example

Downloadable ESG Highlights:

Similar to an executive summary, the option offers all stakeholders the main takeaways of your ESG progress. Combined with data visualization and some visually compelling graphics, this touchpoint can be a quick summary of your ESG efforts for the year. It’s the most digestible format for your ESG story.

Benefits of the ESG Highlights or ESG Data Summary:

  • Provides a summary of your ESG efforts
  • Data is absolutely critical to ESG investing, financial services companies and investors need quick and easy ways to view and gauge performance
ESG content marketing social media template examples
ESG reporting social media template example

Smart Reporting Touchpoint #4:

ESG Content Marketing

We live in an era of constant communication and sharing content online offers an ideal way to expand your reach and reinforce key messages by showing content with as many users as possible… increasing chances of reaching your audiences.

Content marketing ensures you’re keeping abreast of relevant issues and communicating your company’s position. However, within the universe of ESG, it may be challenging to decide what topics to focus on.

The nature of online and social media content marketing allows companies to more easily and quickly share key messages or highlights from their ESG report. This may include promoting success stories, turning ESG data and outcomes into infographics, sharing employee testimonials, or generating focused articles written by experts within your company.

Benefits of ESG Content Marketing:

  • The best thing businesses can do is keep consumers informed about their ESG developments using brief texts and lots of visuals on social media

  • ESG content marketing can provide new opportunities to share the highlights and ongoing ESG efforts within your company

  • Allows for easily consumable ways to share key ESG messages and future endeavors, enhancing the company’s brand image and reputation

Some effective content marketing solutions include:

Social Media

To leverage the benefit and immediacy of social media platforms, an ESG reporting template can be designed to use to communicate updates on a more frequent basis than allowed by the quarterly update document. It’s important you keep the content informational and not promotional. If you include a call to action, focus on a call that will benefit society and not just your company. These social media posts should adhere to the tone and style of each social media platform currently utilized by your company.

Digital Advertising

Based on the ESG report design, advertising templates may be created to utilize for digital media campaigns. A set of standard sizes and concepts would be developed to accommodate specific messages and data from the ESG report.

Website Home Page Promotional Image

To promote the availability of the newest ESG report, it may be beneficial to create an image to place on the home page of company website to increase awareness of the report and overall sustainability efforts of the company in high-visibility places.

Obata can improve your ESG or Sustainability Report

Learn more about our ESG reporting capabilities.