The Why and How of creating an annual sustainability report
Why create a sustainability report? In short, an annual report on sustainability is GloryBee’s way of demonstrating a commitment to traceability, honesty, and accountability to creating a business for a better future. The annual report always highlights new achievements, and it always takes a good hard honest look at the data. For example, in 2017 GloryBee improved on water use for the 4th straight year running. We also decreased our recycling for the second year running. The sustainability report looks at everything, and reports on it all.
The how: Keeping track of the important metrics for sustainability can be a daunting task and requires some organization.
Materiality: What do we need to know?
The Sustainable Food Trade Association, and B Lab have helped GloryBee decide what is important to the sustainable food and manufacturing community. Greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use, employee retention and internal promotions are just a few metric that are measured and reported on publically every year.
Scope: When to start?
Some companies measure their year from January to December, like GloryBee, while others offset slightly. One benefit to offsetting slightly – you can produce a sustainability report by January. At GloryBee we don’t get all of 2017’s metrics collected until February of 2018, and then the sustainability manager and marketing need a little time to create the magic. Both ways work, but year to year, consistency is important.
The Search: Where do these numbers come from?
Finding all the numbers is a bit like being a detective. Accounting has many numbers, but so does Operations, HR, and Product Management. Some numbers come buried in a utility bill collected from each site. GloryBee technically has 6 locations (though only 3 addresses) for utilities, and gets energy from two electricity companies, plus natural gas, propane, bio-diesel, and CNG.
The Report: Balancing between data and marketing.
Data and science, metrics, numbers, KPI’s, best practices, next steps, program goals; this is all good information, and it goes in the sustainability report. But so should fun, hopeful, informative, positive branding. The marketing department works their magic to create something that looks and feels like GloryBee, but is different than a promotional piece, more informative and engaging.
The sustainability report is a look-back at the previous year’s challenges and achievements, as well as a peek inside the operations of the company. A good sustainability report provides an informative and engaging way to show the metrics and forward momentum, and keeps the company moving forward. It can be used as a tool for new employee sustainability education, customer engagement. It can be shown to suppliers as a best practices target, and to stakeholders in the community as a demonstrated commitment to sustainability.