Formally documenting and sharing the results generated is essential to an effective program, including how it is managed and perceived.
The Benefits of Reporting
Reporting on the results of projects (and the program in general) can help contribute a variety of benefits:
- It is a means for explicitly documenting exactly what the Program has accomplished.
- It serves as a measuring stick for comparing results against objectives as well as future projects.
- It provides a vehicle for transparently communicating progress.
- It can be leveraged internally to generate employee engagement.
- It can be leveraged externally to secure recognition, support and contribution.
All of those factors can bolster the strength of a program.
Effective Reporting Techniques
Remember, simply developing a report does not guarantee the aforementioned benefits will be realized; a highly technical, paper report placed in the CEO’s filing cabinet is not going to make much of a difference for anyone but the CEO.
The nature of a report should be determined based on the organization’s related objectives and priorities. Depending on the situation, what makes for an effective report can vary greatly; the following are some of the factors worth consciously evaluating:
- Level of formality / professionalism.
- Detail orientation and depth.
- Degree of creativity employed and aesthetic appeal.
- Technical intensity / focus.
There are many reporting guidelines that are available, from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Based on the factors above, it is important to consider what standards or system is most applicable to your organization. It is also helpful to have a report that embodies the following attributes that will contribute to its effectiveness and impact:
Shareable: to widely communicate a report to various stakeholders, it is essential to use a publishing method that makes it easy to share. A digital platform, like a website or electronic document, works best. Using an online platform will allow for the seamless integration of social media, videos, interactivity, and the other emerging opportunities in digital media.
Approachable: few will read a report if it’s not comprehensible. The reality is that the results of a sustainability program can be quite technical and complex. The document should be published in a style that is approachable to audiences with technical expertise as well as the layman.
Comprehensive: a report should be thorough and complete. Detailed data should be provided describing where the organization started and the results it achieved, alongside the context needed to appreciate the entire body of work that’s been undertaken.
Transparent: as part of presenting a credible story, it is important to provide a complete picture, rather than simply highlighting the successes achieved. Be open; communicate what is going well and where there is room for improvement.
Performance Oriented: a report should be results oriented and reflective of both the program’s achievements and shortcomings. It can be effective to track performance against program objectives over time.
Verified: having the data collected verified by a credible third party can help ensure the results presented are not questioned for being biased.