How to successfully develop copy and creative elements for your sustainability report

Once the collection process is well on its way, it’s time to really start creating the upcoming sustainability report. There are two key elements to this phase, which ideally run in tandem: copywriting and creative development.

Good sustainability reports tell a well-rounded story yet are focused and concise at the same time. Instead of detailing everything in the report, is there relevant content on the website to which you can link? Can you place the content in function of the future, rather than just on the past? And don’t forget to tell a balanced story, not shying away from challenges and areas in which you’re lagging behind your goals. And be sure to place the sustainability report in its relevant context.

Develop an overall creative concept to make the report engage the key stakeholders. This goes beyond the tone of voice and the look and feel – find a central theme to bring the content to life for a broad range of stakeholders. A concept that can take your report content beyond the report.

Ensure the copywriter(s) and creative(s) work together as a team. Design for online reading, with interactive elements and easy navigation. Align visuals with the brand and corporate identity. And if at all possible, don’t start on layout until the copy has been signed off. However, a very useful and visual tool to use in this step of the process is a joint review of the extended page plan. Collate the key content for each page, including rough text and ideas for key visuals, such as photos, graphs, infographics, into a mockup report. With the core team, review this page by page, to highlight what you still need to collect and create.

The most stressful step during this phase may well be the approval process. So be sure to plan ahead during the earlier phases. Get your focus (or material) topics and page plan signed off by senior management early on in the process. Expect the approvers to have input (they always do!) – but you can significantly reduce stress by planning for it and by involving them along the sustainability reporting journey.

Valérie de Boer, Communications Advisor at NGO Cordaid shares: “Our Annual Report gets better every year. Last year, we made major strides by taking it from a print-oriented format to an interactive pdf, which reads and navigates like a website. This helps us better engage our key stakeholders with our programs, challenges, and results.”

Once the sustainability report has been created and approved, it’s time to really communicate about the report (content).

Want more personalized guidance than our blogs provide? Consider joining our reporting webinar (2 Oct) or our reporting workshop (29 Oct) in Amsterdam. 

This blog is part of The Terrace’s series on Reporting for Positive Change. Sustainability reporting can be a vital process to support the sustainability strategy within in a company. Yet often, this isn’t the case. Companies report on positive change – rather than reporting for positive change. Every year we support many companies and other organizations on their sustainability reporting journey. In this blog series, we share key learnings – from across our reporting projects and clients.