Guide to impact reporting: 2022

Do you need an impact report?

An impact report is the result of a long process that measures, evaluates and visualises your organisation’s programmes or initiatives and their impact on the environment, society and sustainability.

Companies, the world over, devote significant resources, time and energy to exert an influence on their surroundings. It is crucial to effectively publish the net result of their efforts, to reap the benefits that impact reporting brings with it. A company’s impact report needs to constructively communicate to its shareholders, potential investors and all the people associated with the Company - the exact reasoning behind its actions, the problems it overcame, the difference it made and what it plans on doing better.

Impact reporting is for any organisation that wants to enhance transparency and demonstrate its contribution to the environmental, social and economic health of the different geographies in which they operate.

Realising how essential impact reporting is, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, vide the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2021 dated January 22, 2021, has mandated all companies who have had a CSR obligation of Rs. 10 cr. or more over the past three years to take up an ‘impact assessment’ through an independent agency and present the report before the board of directors while annexing it to their annual reports as well.

What should you include in it?

All commendable impact reports go beyond merely stating the activities undertaken by the company during a given time. They tend to start by clearly stating a problem that the company intended to solve and a clarification about why the company picked this particular problem.

The influence that well-elucidated problems can have on stakeholders is unmatched. For instance, if a company is trying to reduce its carbon footprint, it will state the same in its meeting or on its website. However, to maximise the impact while also transparently conveying the message would require going the extra mile and demonstrating that the organisation is effectively and actively trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

This requires a level of detail that can include actions taken to control emissions prevalent in its supply chain, with specific data that states the volume of emissions, the manner or type of emissions (scope 1, 2 or 3 emissions) and how it ranks in comparison to competitors. Assessing and analysing the process to achieve clear learnings to improve is imperative for the organisation to optimise and for stakeholders to be made fully aware of the Company’s activities and whether they are aligned with their values.

Clearly outlining the problem is one aspect, the impact report then needs to showcase the company’s detailed approach to addressing the challenge. Whether this plan involves changes in its everyday processes or large investments, the company needs to justify its decision and lay out how this decision will help it sustain over a longer time frame.

The next step in impact reporting is answering a difficult question — what will the Company achieve by solving this problem? While predicting the future can be a precarious exercise, at best, this section needs the company’s management to introspect and comprehensively convey what their goals are and how they plan to go about achieving them.

Although this section may be a positive or a negative point for the company, stating it directly is a step towards good corporate governance, for it will increase transparency, which will have a direct impact on the company’s goodwill. A structured, visually appealing impact report will help convince potential investors, who look beyond financial information when making their investment decisions.

It is critical to note that companies would need to validate their achievements with the relevant data points. If the company has failed in its endeavours, the reasons for such failure need to be clearly outlined. This section of the report should include the obstacles the company faced in implementing its impact strategy, detailed facts and figures involved, and the stories of the people who were directly affected by the Company’s actions. If any surveys were undertaken, they should also be stated along with their results. All of this will paint an unbiased and comprehensive picture for all of the Company’s stakeholders.

Lastly, the perspectives the Company gained throughout this exercise and its methodology for utilizing learnings to improve the workings of the company are instrumental in creating a lasting positive effect and should also be distinctly mentioned. This will help portray the company’s future outlook and its readiness to face any roadblock that it may encounter.

Is your report visually ramped up?

Words, if not backed by visuals, can get tedious and dull for readers. Every time your company publishes a report, it needs to maintain the right balance between unequivocal content and visually-appealing design.

Further, the design elements need to be in sync with the brand of the company and this necessitates accounting for the minutiae within each page. Below is a list of some of the different areas of design that need to be carefully deliberated:

  1. Typography – Should the font type and size be uniform with the other publications undertaken by your company? Or should you be creative to make your brand stand out?
  2. Call-outs – Are the numbers that affect your report appropriately highlighted? Opting to emphasise critical data points will help set the tone of your report and impact how it is received by stakeholders.
  3. Images – Ensuring the use of images to depict your message precisely with minimal room for interpretation. Further, the company should be careful to avoid any copyright infringement when using images that are not outrightly owned by the organisation.
  4. Icons – Are the icons used appropriate and are they meaningful on their own?
  5. Captions – Are all your images properly captioned?
  6. Match – Do your design elements complement the purpose and essence of your report?
  7. Focus – Are the correct elements in focus and given precedence?

While these questions may appear seemingly simple, no one answer can fit the needs of all companies. The essence is in what the company wants to portray to the different constituents of its ecosystem.

Ensuring all these disparate elements align to create the ideal impact report requires expertise and reporting experience, such as the services provided by design agencies specialised in business reporting.

Reach out to Report Yak and let us help you unveil your brand’s story in compelling tailor-made designs that appeal to your target audience. We are a purely business reporting design agency that conceptualises, creates content, and designs annual reports, ESG reports, and impact reports for corporations.

Feel free to check out our award-winning work here or get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss your next report.