Sustainability

Why COVID-19 is crucial to your sustainability report

By 3rd September 2020 No Comments

"Brands are strongly influenced by the rapid pace of change. Maintain your position or take a new one by working even more with your story – your what and why? Here, communication about your sustainability work is central and your sustainability reporting is an important part."

Meryem Can BolinBusiness Director, Sustainability & Diversity at Spoon

One thing we have learned from the corona pandemic, is that we are capable of challenging the old ways of running a business. In a pretty short period of time, we’ve been able to switch from mostly physical meetings to mainly digital ones; to working from home and getting used to new policies on distancing. Some companies have even found alternative supply chains due to the global lockdown.

This has, of course, increased investors’ interest in how companies respond to crisis, both in the short and long term. That leads to the question: how do businesses react to accountability and transparency in terms of sustainability? Therefore, communicating the consequences and opportunities surrounding COVID-19 will be a crucial element of your upcoming sustainability report.

Don’t hold back on sustainability work

Madeleine Bäck, senior consultant at Goodpoint (full disclosure: Spoon and Goodpoint are business partners), one of Sweden’s leading consulting firms in sustainable business development, points out that holding back on sustainability work may be an easy answer, but not the right one.

“We know that some companies have slowed down sustainability investments for budgetary reasons due to corona. Such immediate slowdowns may involve postponing work on a new sustainability strategy or waiting to implement changes because employees are not in the office, or busy with order intake, personnel issues and finances linked to this. This is understandable in an acute crisis, but it would be a shame to put on the brakes for too long. All sustainability work is about long-term. Ten years to be more specific – that is what we have in store to be able to achieve the goals of Agenda 2030.”

So, how will the pandemic affect companies’ sustainability reporting this year?

“In many ways,” Madeleine says. “We will probably, for example, see the effects of climate reporting Scope 3, which includes business trips. All digital meetings will have reduced CO2 emissions and your budget will be lower due to a lack of business trips. Electricity consumption in offices should also have decreased for the same reason. However, this reduction may have been evened up by the fact that the electricity consumption in employees’ homes has increased since they’ve been working from home. However, the companies cannot check whether the electricity in their employees’ homes is renewable or not. This should also be taken into account in companies’ sustainability reports.”

Why is it important to give space to the corona pandemic in upcoming sustainability reports, and how should that parameter be presented?

“The pandemic is so extensive that it is likely to affect most of the organisation’s essential sustainability issues to some extent. So, it will probably be more natural to weave in the impact of the corona pandemic in connection with the various sustainability issues in the report, rather than making it a separate section. In addition to understanding how the company “handled the effects of the pandemic”, it is important for stakeholders to understand how sensitive a company is to pandemics in the future”, says Bäck.

Not sure how to report yet?

Before you decide on anything, here are three actions that will set a solid base for your sustainability report:

1. Be consistent and complete. Investors still want to see comparable data and this year they are particularly interested in how companies cope with shock. Even if you are unable to report on the long-term effects of the pandemic right now, you will be able to improve your information in the near future.

2. Support the data with your story. The pandemic has probably affected numbers throughout your value chain – from greenhouse gas emissions to diversity and employee engagement. However, numbers around these points will be impossible for readers to interpret. Help them understand your company’s corona pandemic changes through storytelling and give them a forward-looking path.

3. Honest and fast communication is more important than ever. One way to meet stakeholders’ needs for the pandemic’s short-term consequences is to create a powerful communication tool, such as a website that can provide relevant information outside the formal reporting sphere.

Take action

Are you focused on the most important topics? What hidden potential can you release? The report check-up is a quick, practical and useful analysis of your sustainability report.

Our workshops are designed to help you with the tools and strategies that you need to communicate sustainability in a way that is relevant for you and your target groups: (https://spoonagency.com/portfolio/sustainability-communication-workshop/)

It’s all about partnership! Bonnier’s newly-published annual review is a great co-lab between Spoon, Ohmy! and JKL. Read the most up-to-date news about Bonnier’s sustainability work, future trends and financial results.