Session 9: Reporting – Purpose and Content (Sustainability Engagement Network Discussion

By Wendy Firlotte, Employee Engagement for Sustainability Specialist

Wendy gained experience as the Sustainability Engagement Manager for a large multi-national engineeing firm with 171 offices.

Wendy gained experience as the Sustainability Engagement Manager for a large multi-national engineeing firm with 171 offices.

To follow the topic of the last SEND series post on tracking and measurement, this month will focus on the next step, reporting.

The information we collect to track and measure progress is not only useful for your organization’s sustainability report, which will likely only highlight a fraction of the information collected, but also to inform programming decisions.

Creating sustainability engagement specific reports with the results of tracking and monitoring will go a long way in maintaining informed decisions about the sustainability engagement program as well as helping others understand the overall program.

Report Planning and Scope

Primarily, the substance and schedule of sustainability engagement related reporting needs to align with your organization’s sustainability engagement strategy.  This strategy will provide additional direction to enhance reporting relevance and focus.  It will help you identify  what you will report, your target audience and how your report will be used.  More on aligning with strategy is available in a previous SEND post on Planning and Strategy.

Depending on your organizational context, your reporting needs and outputs will vary from other organizations.  Here are a couple of possibilities to consider when deciding on report types. Both are useful tools to communicate program goals and progress.

Progress Reports:  Quarterly data summaries at the region and office level are valuable to create timely snap shots of how the program is progressing.  Using this data to create annual progress reports will allow office staff to see how they are doing in comparison to other offices, as well as, the company as a whole.

Formal Evaluation:  When your organization conducts a formal evaluation of your engagement program and revision of your engagement strategy; creating a report to illustrate your findings is beneficial.  In addition to reporting on quantitative data, this type of report is useful to identify progress on other important elements of sustainability engagement such as organizational culture, employee understanding of sustainability, etc.

Report Fundamentals

When creating a sustainability engagement report there are some fundamentals that can improve its effectiveness in terms of structure, relevance, substance and user-friendliness.   The following are few considerations:

Audience:  It is important to consider who will be your target audience.  Will it include executive leadership, regional and office management, local sustainability/green teams, all employees or other types of audience segments?  Do you have specific communication goals for each segment of your audience?  How will you address these elements when creating the report framework?

Purpose:  What purpose will the report serve?  What are the objectives of the report in regard to supporting overall programming?  What types of information will you include?  Will the report include information that is qualitative, quantitative or both?

Content:  The information you have collected for your report will come from the evaluation plan.  It could include: an online survey (perhaps a follow-up survey to your needs assessment survey to illustrate progress), the results of tracking and measurement for your internal programs, focus groups, etc.

How will you relate this data to the overarching programming goals as well as specific operational goals such as performance improvement?  Mapping out how you will present your data and analysis will greatly impact the reader experience.  For example, how will employees feel the data connects to their everyday actions at work, including management and leadership?  One approach could be to identify specific program goals and use these to help create the framework of your report.  This approach could assist employees in making the direct connection to how your organization is progressing toward specific goals.

Creating space for qualitative data to help tell your program’s story from the organizational level is also valuable; for example you could include some best practice examples from internal initiatives or illustrate general comments and feedback from individuals or local teams.  Creating words clouds are an interesting way to illustrate feedback; Wordle is a free online tool.

In terms of moving forward with programming, reporting provides a data and fact-based platform to create change.  Based on the data analysis and discussion, create a section for recommendations; this will provide the space for rationale for any improvements to the engagement program.

Make it readable.  We all hope that the reports we create are actually read by our intended audiences.  Therefore, we need to make sure we create reports that will be read.  Keeping it relevant, clear, concise and whenever possible use diagrams to illustrate data will go a long way in improving its readability.

Share it.  Reporting should be included in the engagement programs communications plan. It is an effective communication tool and should be marketed as widely as possible.  For example, have offices print copies for bulletin boards, make it available online and promote its release to increase its readership through online articles, send targeted emails to specific audience segments such as office mangers, regional management, executive leadership, all employees, etc.

If you have any comments, ideas, additions to share please a comment below.  This discussion series is about learning from each other.  Hearing about your experiences is valuable to everyone!  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Wendy Firlotte or Kathryn Cooper.

Other topics already covered in the SEND discussion series may also be relevant to your situation; please take some time to read through previous posts and stay tuned for future posts and related discussions.

Session 1 – Planning and strategy

Session 2 – Addressing scope – Local vs. corporate plans

Session 3 – Communicating with frontline staff

Session 4 – Internal benchmarking & office rating systems

Session 5 – Beyond start-up – Dealing with plateaus and revitalizing programs

Session 6 – Participation – Overcoming barriers and competing priorities

Session 7 – Integrating sustainability into operations

Session 8 – Tracking and measurement

Session 9 – Reporting – purpose and content (Current Post)

Session 10 – Wrap-up Session

The Sustainability Engagement Network Discussion (SEND) Series is a network of Sustainability Practitioners using peer learning to accelerate employee engagement for sustainability.  If you are interested in participating in our ongoing sustainability engagement discussions, please contact Kathryn Cooper.


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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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