At this time of year, I look forward to receiving a healthy supply of corporate CR/sustainability reports from all over the world. I read as many as I can and enjoy spotting new directions in reporting and unpicking the real corporate stories. What always impresses me is the occasional report that comes with a personal email and materials that demonstrate a more deeply embedded reporting process. These reports deserve, and get, my attention but how many reporters actually invest in promotion and exploit the interest they generate?
Last year while researching our ‘Value Added Reporting’ project, we identified this post-publication or capitalisation phase as the weakest point in the sustainability reporting process. However with careful planning, capitalisation activities can be powerful levers to a more effective reporting process without needing large specific inputs.
I see capitalisation as having three essential elements: distribution, engagement and build-up. First off, the report needs to actually reach its audience as previously defined by its objectives. A distribution list is a start but for some audiences subsidiary communications such as formal stakeholder specific summaries, posters and toolbox talks can be prepared, as well as less formal briefings, tweets and similar. Other corporate functions are often looking for this sort of material and may be able to help out.
Report capitalisation is also the perfect time to promote discourse and debate with key stakeholders. Capturing feedback can be notoriously hard, but stakeholders deserve more than a timorous invitation to email CR@company.com. New technologies, such as web-forums and blog-jams are making engagement a much more broad-ranging and cost effective way of understanding stakeholders.
Flowing from distribution and engagement, the last capitalisation stage is build-up. Here reporting processes are re-examined, amended and embellished to facilitate the next reporting cycle. At this stage, it’s important not to overlook issues owners – often the forgotten stakeholders of reporting. Just think what a more inclusive approach to issues owners could do for your production timelines and content development six months down the line!