News Analysis

Your ESG reporting doesn’t have to be a burden

by Sean O'Neill on May 23, 2023

A new style of ESG reporting is becoming popular. Here’s how to report brilliantly on your ESG activities and why the power of creating narratives to communicate your ESG journey is an opportunity, not a burden.

The mere mention of ESG reporting can send some people into a state of rigid boredom, their eyes glass over and they look for somewhere more interesting to run.

ESG reporting is all about disclosing information relating to your organisation’s activities in three distinct areas: environmental stewardship (the E); social responsibility (the S) and governance (the G).

Sounds quite formal, doesn’t it?

But what if you used your ESG reporting obligations as a marketing and brand building opportunity?

Time and money

Many firms see their ESG reporting obligations as a burden, something that costs time and money.

What if firms turned that perception around and began seeing their ESG reporting duties as an opportunity to show the world what a great company they are?

If a business is good at ESG i.e. it has a decent environmental impact, is good to its staff and customers and is well run by its leadership team – why doesn’t it do a little boasting about these successes?

Your ESG reporting doesn’t have to be kept hidden away and seen only by auditors and investors, it can become a compelling story that builds your reputation, attracts brilliant people to work for you and gains more customers.

It is time to tell your ESG story, and here’s how.

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Telling your ESG story to build trust

In the media rich world of today, storytelling has become a powerful vehicle for change and this is especially true within the business sector and with regard to ESG.

Storytelling can help communicate ESG related issues and performance to a wider audience, and can create a deeper connection with the brand.

So, there is a symbiotic relationship between ESG and storytelling, which can create greater transparency.

Key points:

  • Telling your ESG story builds trust in your brand
  • Building a marketing communications plan around your ESG story is compelling
  • It is important to consider different stakeholders when crafting your message
  • Stories can make ESG metrics more human and relatable

Help people connect with your ESG reports

Storytelling can allow board members to engage stakeholders in a more meaningful way. It means taking complex concepts, and conveying them through narratives that demonstrate how such actions can be tied to wider societal and environmental benefits.

Since ESG issues can sometimes be overwhelming and abstract, this can make it challenging for people to connect with the messaging.

Storytelling can make it more accessible by using things like case studies, personal anecdotes, and testimonials from those who have been most impacted.

An example of this might be sharing stories of individuals who have been affected by climate change and describing ways in which your business is helping.

Companies can highlight milestones and challenges along their ESG journey and describe lessons which have been learned. This creates more transparency and builds trust.

Where there is scepticism about issues such as greenwashing, such transparency can help to make companies more relatable.

Stories like this can help to mobilise action and to drive investment. They can illustrate the positive impact of sustainable products and services and make it more likely that individuals will align their actions with the ESG goals of the business.

Technological advances too can enhance the storytelling experience. Things like interactive media and collaborative formats can advance collective action.

ESG becomes then more than a dry set of guidelines or principles but instead a dynamic thing which can inspire change and foster empathy.

How to report brilliantly on your ESG

A good ESG narrative should speak of a variety of different initiatives.

Picking a key initiative to focus on to communicate your ESG strategy can be helpful and there is no need to try to communicate everything all at once. Finding the place where your different ESG initiatives intersect could present a good opportunity for storytelling.

Communications should be made to suit different audiences and this will require understanding the interests of those audiences.

While investors may be more interested in figures, other stakeholders such as consumers or employees may be more interested to understand how your ESG strategy impacts their areas of concern.

So, it can be beneficial to understand the different emotional drivers of the organisations stakeholders.

Include a balance of facts and examples

While audiences love a moving narrative, it should also be underpinned by hard measurable facts.

It is also important to be authentic and mention what still remains to be done. This makes for a more relatable brand story which consumers can follow along with.

It is also critical to be confident in standing behind the causes you want to align with as a brand.

Your ESG story should be a core part of your brand identity and must evolve with current events.

Making ESG reporting relevant to stakeholders

When it comes to an ESG storytelling strategy, brands should be mindful of who is telling the story, how it is told, and which platforms it is told through.

The ESG narrative is a powerful story or series of stories, that should drive understanding and inspire action, ultimately making your ESG journey real, relevant and resonant to your stakeholders.

Failure to tell a compelling ESG story can result in the reduced ability to attract new investors.

Because authenticity matters, it can also impact things like brand perception and talent acquisition.

Many organisations focus on employees and investors, but it is important to also consider other stakeholders within the supply chain. Distributing the ESG story through more channels than just the annual report and intranet is critical.

ESG reporting can be aligned with marketing

There should also be a marketing strategy attached to promoting the ESG story and this should involve social media, but also paid search, email and other methods of digital communication.

Getting the right data is crucial when it comes to gaining insights which help to build connections with stakeholders. Targeted ads reaching the right stakeholders at the right time can be extremely useful.

Importantly ESG related communications should happen more often than just once a year.

ESG reporting can build an emotional connection with your stakeholders

So, ESG storytelling is useful because it can build an emotional connection with stakeholders and build long term commitment. for some stakeholders technical data can be difficult to interpret, which is why it is useful to put this into a more relatable language.

ESG storytelling can provide an answer to addressing customer doubts in terms of greenwashing and help to build trust in corporate integrity.

Ultimately, the reasons to engage in ESG related storytelling are to create a better relationship between stakeholders and your brand.

These stakeholders could be investors, customers, employees, or others involved in your supply chain.

The ESG message can be modified to suit these different stakeholders and a marketing communications plan can determine where these stakeholders can be reached and in what format the information would be most impactful.

Use case studies when reporting your ESG

Case studies and testimonials provide relatable examples to stakeholders but it is important to also include key metrics as well.

The advances in technology present organisations with many opportunities to deliver messages in different formats at the right place and time.

With ESG-related items frequently in the news, such stories can have a high relevance and provide motivation for different stakeholders such as employees to become more invested and engaged with the brand and its mission. But this requires clarity, so organisations should engage in planning in order to first understand exactly what they would like the mission to be when it comes to ESG related criteria.

Essentially, stories help mobilise action and this can help to move business forward.

Crafting your ESG story may take time in terms of joining up different information from different sections of the organisation, but ultimately, this will result in greater goodwill and trust toward the brand.

Examples of brilliant ESG reporting

  1. Vulcan Energy 
  2. Provaris Energy 
  3. Latin Resources 

To discover more about ESG reporting and your obligations, download the brochure below.

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ESG reporting

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