What does the weather, your kid’s exam results, and a business’s impact have in common? They’re all easier to get your head around in the form of a snappy report. While we are big fans of the weather report (especially the shipping forecast at bedtime), it’s the impact report that we are truly passionate about.
Impact reports show that it’s possible to do good and do good business at the same time. They prove that we’re doing what we claim to be doing. They underline our commitment to all stakeholders (not just shareholders), and hold us accountable for our impact, so we can learn and do better.
Today’s consumers are switched on, savvy and sceptical about sustainability and do-gooding claims from brands. And rightly so. They want to make informed decisions about who they support. To know more about the companies they interact with and their impact on society and the environment. An annual impact report allows a brand to communicate that with transparency and accountability.
How to communicate impact
You’ve decided to produce an impact report. Congratulations, good call. Now what?
For us, those first conversations with a client include talking about their sustainability mission and ambition, what they’re already doing to look after the environment, their existing internal policies, their why and reasons behind wanting to change.
We often help companies see impact where they might not have thought to look. Going beyond carbon footprint and looking at things like staff policy. Because there is no such thing as sustainability if we’re not looking after people too. And rather than greenwashing, many businesses are so worried about being cancelled that instead of inflating their impact, they may actually be green-hushing. We find that a lot of the time businesses are already doing things that are creating positive impact and through open conversation, we identify areas where there is need for improvement.
There is no such thing as sustainability if we’re not looking after people too.
But that’s the thing, the main point when aiming to build brand trust around sustainability, is that brands show intent and willingness to do better over time. Change can’t always happen overnight, it’s a process, so doing things with a strong intention is very important.
Don’t wait for perfection
“We shouldn’t make companies look at the roadmap of sustainability and not want to start because they feel like they have to change everything immediately.”
– Leap Creative Director Nathan Lance, speaking on the Creative Characters Podcast
As well as committing to long-term change, the reality is that most companies, just like people, will mess up and make mistakes along the way to their sustainable business goals. That’s ok. It’s a shame that the fear of getting it wrong holds brands back from communicating their impact, because those moments when you do make a mistake can be useful catalysts. As long as there is honesty and you’re prepared to learn and make changes, dust yourself off and keep going. That is what brand transparency is all about – if you haven’t come across Ace & Tate’s ‘Look, we f*cked up’ report, it’s well worth a read.
So yes, there will be challenges to reaching a sustainable future but finding joy in the process will keep us motivated to keep going. We see it as a part of our job to help companies to develop that. We have to make sure that we enjoy what we do to feel energised. Part of becoming more sustainable is exploration and finding other ways to do things, not just restricting and taking things away. That feeling of progress is hugely rewarding – and joyful!
The long haul
Like we’ve established, the key to sustainability is playing the long game. At Leap we have been working on, and showcasing a better way to do business for over 20 years but impact reporting has helped formalise and put it on paper. And it really becomes a valuable tool when you can see the journey and get some perspective. How you built on successes, identified and addressed issues, slipped up and got back on it.
In the last few months we have taken two very different (but equally awesome) companies through producing their second year impact report. The first year is the biggest step, it’s where you do the initial stock take, set the bar, find your feet, commit to change. It’s exciting. But in the second year, there is a different kind of magic. We have built up a relationship and know each other better. There is a trust and shorthand that enables positive flow. We’re setting the course for the longevity of sustainability work and building efficient ways to communicate impact.
Reports are created in collaboration with our clients in whatever way is useful for them – digital and print. They are beautiful, full of the soul of the brand and their culture. Both a record and a blueprint providing value internally for the team, as well as externally in the wider world.
Tilda and reducing the climate impact of rice
Rice pioneers Tilda teamed up with Leap to produce their first ever impact report last year and their second one has just dropped. It’s been really exciting to follow in their journey and see their ambition producing results. As one of the world’s most crucial food staples, anything positive you can do to shape the future of rice – such as reducing its climate impact – will have a very big, long-term impact. And Tilda are doing just that, working with rice farmers in India to test farming techniques that reduce the environmental impacts of growing rice. The result is a reduction in water and energy use of up to 20% and greenhouse gas emissions of up to 50%, which is amazing. The long term goals are to improve the entire global rice supply chain with these innovative techniques.
“Our ambition is to be one of the most responsible rice producers globally and to be honest and transparent about our impact on people and the planet.” – Tilda
Bruichladdich and the enduring power of infographics
We worked with Bruichladdich on their first, in-depth impact report introducing their approach to sustainability (and learned how to pronounce the name!). This year the brief was to make the content lighter and use infographics to bring the data to life. Teaming up with sustainability consultant Beth Derry to produce Bruichladdich’s second impact report, we’re continuing to help them communicate their industry-leading approach to positive impact. You can check them and the report out here.
“Transparency is a core value at Bruichladdich Distillery. As a business we are a completely open book – there are no shortcuts or secrets to how we distil our single malts and we share as much information as possible with our consumers about our whisky making process, recipes and ingredients.
This same level of transparency is also inherent to our sustainability strategy, and our annual Impact Report is a great way to showcase all aspects of our B Corp journey. While we’ve made positive steps forward we’ve also faced many challenges, failures and setbacks along the way – and we are committed to sharing every detail with our consumers as they join us on this journey.”
– Amy Brownlee, Global Communications Brand Manager, Bruichladdich Distillery
More and more businesses are becoming interested in measuring and communicating impact. As a B Corp, we are legally required to do so, and the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive is another indicator that this may become standard practice in business. The EU CSRD has been developed to support the European Green Deal, aimed at transforming the EU into a resource-efficient and climate-neutral economy.
Communicating impact creates ripples beyond the business itself as well. By doing better and sharing those efforts with the world, we are not only making a direct positive difference. It also gives others a springboard to take their own first steps from. So forget about the mammoth, dry and jargon filled documents that the word ‘report’ may conjure up. Instead focus on designing for the reader. It’s not about reporting more but creating smart – using visuals and pulling out the essence that helps drive progress on sustainability and in turn, business performance.
If you’re looking for impact report inspiration or have produced a great one that others can learn from, we created this resource called The Impact Reporting Archive. It’s a global archive for business impact report sharing, research, and inspiration, where you can upload your own or view other companies’ impact reports for free.