- Credit // @aplaceforcreation, Unsplash
There’s a lot of reporting involved in running a business. Annual reports, CSR reports, financial reports – all designed to communicate your operations to the wider world, and to validate your company’s place within it. Now another type of report is gaining traction in brand communications: impact reporting. And in a world increasingly concerned with business ethics and sustainability, it’s well worth your time adding this one to your line-up.
What is impact reporting?
An impact report communicates the tangible benefits (or, indeed, disadvantages, but more on that in a moment) that your company has on people and the planet. It tells your stakeholders, trustees, consumers, investors – whoever you’re reporting to – what quantifiable changes your activities are responsible for, reassuring them in the grand scheme of things that your business is ultimately a force for good.
Unlike traditional annual reports or even sustainability reports, an impact report does not simply outline inputs and outputs in a linear fashion. Rather, it explores outcomes and the meaningful change associated with them. This is typically quantified through known impact frameworks, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Social Value UK’s Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach, although this will depend on your industry.
What does an impact report cover?
A well put-together impact report will be creative, engaging and visually appealing. It might include infographics, supporting financial information or a foreword from your CEO, but it should always cover:
- The need: the problem or challenge your business is trying to impact
- The activities: what the business is doing to address this need
- The outcomes: the result of these activities
- The evidence: proving your claims
- Lessons learnt: what you plan to do with this knowledge going forward
What are the benefits of impact reporting?
Adding yet another report to your communications catalogue might seem like an unnecessary effort, but having a well-produced impact report in your arsenal brings a lot of advantages.
1) Brand Affinity
Impact reporting shows would-be customers and investors that you’re willing to go the extra mile to demonstrate your values – something that is highly respected among today’s conscious-driven consumers.
2) Accountability and Transparency
Impact reporting is not about gloating, nor is it exclusively about good news stories. It is an open and honest account of the difference your business is making in the world, and how you plan to learn from your outcomes – this includes being truthful about mistakes or shortcomings. This type of transparency and accountability promotes trust with all your audiences.
3) Unexpected Wins
Spending time actively quantifying your impact efforts and their outcomes can often reveal unintended outcomes that can also be communicated to your audience, further strengthening your brand’s appeal.
4) Industry Leadership
An impact report puts your business in a position of active industry leadership, as well as helping to distinguish your business in an increasingly crowded CSR landscape. Having an impact report gives you a valuable edge on competitors that don’t, and against those that do, a well-produced impact report allows your audience to make straightforward comparisons. This can be a significant advantage for brands looking to compete with bigger names.
5) A Strong Workplace Culture
Creating an impact report means measuring all your impacts, which involves engaging staff at all levels throughout the business. This in itself helps to create a culture of cohesion and learning. The report itself can also help to motivate staff and foster a sense of employee pride as it promotes and celebrates company achievements.
6) A Solid Strategy Roadmap
An impact report is not necessarily separate from other company reports. If your impact data collection has been driven by your vision, mission, and theories of change, it’s hard for your impact communication to be anything other than integrated with strategy, helping to support all areas of your operations. Impact reporting can therefore help to inform your wider business activities, and vice versa.
Communicating impact is not a linear process, but it’s set to become an increasingly common – and important – business activity. Enlisting the help of an experienced impact communications expert will ensure your business is able to convey the meaningful difference it’s making in the world accurately and effectively.
Reach out to email@example.com to discuss your impact reporting needs.