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The Shift in focus from Impact Reports to Impact Reporting

Perspectives on Reporting | Impact Management | impact report

Reading time: 3 minutes

Specialties: systems thinking, research, impact strategy & management, impact measurement & reporting, theory of change development, facilitation.

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Posted on 2017-12-21

[Author's of this report are well-known social impact thinkers and professors, who have collaborated with SoPact on four part Actionable Impact Management series.  We are republishing with their permission here as we think that this article is very relevent to SoPact audiance.]

Companies that communicate strong impact performance enjoy a range of benefits, such as stronger, more enduring revenue streams; less employee turnover; and lower regulatory risk. Despite the potential benefits of effective sustainability reporting, companies often see this form of reporting as an exercise to meet stakeholder expectations, with little real connection to the core operations of the business.

We argue for a shift in focus from reports to reporting. Formal sustainability reports should be an important part of a larger platform for understanding and communicating organizational performance, rather than the production of a sustainability report being an end in itself. In this report, we draw on relevant research, global best practices, and interviews with seven Canadian companies and their stakeholders to identify opportunities for enhancing the effectiveness and impact of sustainability reporting. We show how effective sustainability reporting – i.e. reporting that reaches the right audience at the right time in the right format for maximum impact – is a function of both what is disclosed and how this information is shared.

The link given below to the article will explore

  • What input data are collected (“inputs”).
  • How input data are collected and compiled into information outputs for reporting (“compilation processes”).
  • What sustainability information is reported (“outputs”). We look both at the content (e.g. the metric or story) and the format (e.g. a report or blog post).
  • How information is communicated and stakeholders are engaged by using multiple channels (e.g. “dissemination and engagement processes”).
  • What outcomes and impacts are created (“outcomes” and “impacts”). Outcomes look at shorter-term measures; impacts speak to ultimate goals. The target outcome of reporting is that stakeholders have the information they need to make decisions, in a format that is appropriate for their use. Impact is seen in improved organizational performance and improved sustainability outcomes for the organization and its stakeholders.
  • How outcomes and impacts are maximized by shifting focus from a report to a reporting cycle.

 

You can read the entire article here.

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