As sustainability becomes a critical conversation for business, the annual sustainability report has become akin to a new product launch. The flood of posts on LinkedIn become a common sight, as the press release hits news outlets.
The unfortunate reality is many reports focus on marketing sustainability, rather than concentrating on actually improving anything. The subject of sustainability is seen as a PR exercise by many, with environmental impacts being publicly defended through this report.
Rather than focusing on the bad, the 2019 sustainability report from Danish fashion brand GANNI provides an excellent example of how to do the thing right. It also highlights what we feel are some basic concepts that could be utilised by all brands and retailers when looking at how to execute a successful sustainability report.
GANNI Sustainability Report 2019
Fortunately, not everyone is looking to use sustainability as a PR exercise. In the rapidly evolving world of sustainability, many companies are striving to do better and delivering this message excellently through an annual sustainability report. GANNI is undoubtedly one of those examples.
GANNI, founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000, has never attempted to be a “sustainable” brand. The DNA of the brand is not in ethical fashion, and the owners have never shied away from this. This is precisely what makes this sustainability report so essential and impressive; a company taking its responsibility for sustainability seriously just because its important.
Sustainability should no longer be a niche subject. All businesses need to begin to consider their environmental impact as one of the critical fundamentals of business success, and an accurate sustainability report should become as important as the annual financials.
Five Tips for a Sustainability Report
Using the GANNI report as inspiration, we have highlighted five focus areas when writing a Sustainability Report:
- Standard Setting
Clearly, above and beyond these points, the most important thing is accurate and reportable data and investing in the time required to understand business impact. Outside of this, however, these points can assist with giving substance to a sustainability report.
Brands and businesses are all different; each will have their brand values and purpose, and in turn, their sustainability challenges. Creating a sustainability report to align with the overall brand strategy will help make sustainability a core part of your business rather than an afterthought.
There are various ways to define ‘purpose’ when it comes to sustainability. Many businesses will already have brand values or pillars that can be used as a structure. These will often need some manipulation to be relevant, but this connection will be hugely beneficial.
The UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) offer a clear outline from which to structure and define a sustainability strategy. Many of the SDGs will not be relevant to a given business, however focusing on the ones that are will provide clear purpose aligned with the global effort.
Another way to align a company sustainability strategy to a global effort is by committing to a set level of standards and reductions. This can be industry-specific like the UN Fashion Charter for Climate Action (UNFCCA) or aligned to a global standard like the Paris Agreement.
GANNI Sustainability Report 2019: Purpose
GANNI have built their sustainability purpose around four pillars:
This breaks the sustainability report into clear sections, with links back to both the UNFCCA and SDGs. A couple of multiple examples include:
- GANNI signed the UN Fashion Charter for Climate Action and committed to a 30% reduction of CO2 per kg of clothing by 2023.
- GANNI supports three focal SDGs: 12 Responsible Production & Consumption, 5 Gender Equality and 13 Climate Action. They implement the SDGs direction into their Gameplan Framework and strategic goals for the next few years.
Sustainability is no different from any other brand value. Consumers want connections with brands; they want to feel a part of something; they want brands to represent something which aligns with them honestly.
When it comes to sustainability, being honest about this single most significant challenge is so critical. How often do we see sustainability reports leading with headlines of the forecasted year of Carbon Neutrality or over-hyped celebrations of minimal investments in sustainability?
Too many of these sustainability reports are marketing-led, rather than sustainability. Even brands who are doing great work can spend too much time focusing on only the good, rather than being honest about the challenges.
Being honest about the substantial sustainability challenges facing your business is critical. Engaging with your consumers on both the problem and then on how you are trying to address this will help consumers understand and feel part of the solution.
GANNI Sustainability Report 2019: Honesty
One of the most refreshing elements of the GANNI report is the honesty from which extremely challenging sustainability issues are addressed.
This honest approach to sustainability shines a bright light on the GANNI brand values and creates a real connection with the sustainability challenges the brand is facing.
As a brand, GANNI is honest in admitting they don’t have all the answers, or in fact, that sustainability was the key business driver. What they do, however, is give an honest view of how they are looking to improve.
Sustainability is complex. Creating a sustainability report can often involve months of data collection and detailed analysis closer to a scientific research paper rather than a consumer-facing document.
All of this detail is extremely important and should be made available as part of the report. What should also be included, though, is a high-level summary of the key points from the report, for consumers to digest in a way relevant to their lives.
This links directly to the honesty section already discussed. Many end consumers are not going to have the level of interest to digest complex data sets. Providing a simple, clear, and transparent view on what has been achieved, and what the plan is next will make these documents relevant to consumers.
GANNI Sustainability Report 2019: Simplicity
The GANNI sustainability report is delivered with a clean design, with simple and clear facts, figures and targets.
It should be mentioned that a sustainability report should be a detailed, scientific document with in-depth analysis. Simplicity should be an aim for the top-level delivery, with the more detailed analysis available for review for those who desire or require.
The aim is not to simplify sustainability, as this is far from possible. Due to this, however, simplifying the delivery can make the subject more digestible and approachable for the average consumer.
Unfortunately, there are very few businesses in existence that can proudly talk about their positive environmental impact. It’s not that they don’t exist, but every company has a significant effect on the planet.
Being transparent about the sustainability challenges facing your business should be celebrated and not necessarily seen as something to hide. As long as your business is taking steps to address these challenges, then being transparent allows understanding.
The critical point is that transparency requires both investment and accountability. Many businesses are not willing to sacrifice profit to invest in understanding their environmental impact, and more crucially would prefer to remain ignorant of the issues to remove accountability.
GANNI Sustainability Report 2019: Transparency
Alongside honesty on sustainability, transparency with specific data points for both challenges and achievements is wide-spread throughout the GANNI report.
The carbon footprint of multiple aspects of the GANNI business is broken down, including fabric production and plastic usage, to give an honest and eye-opening insight into their business.
Many companies would be extremely reluctant to make this type of information publically available, and this is where the commitment to sustainability shines through.
Standard Setting in a Sustainability Report
One of the critical strategies of the growing de-growth movement is for leading companies to set standards in the industry for others to follow. Being a visionary in sustainable processes should be seen as a fundamental part of being a market leader.
Setting these standards in line with the other vital elements already mentioned provides a sustainability report with a more significant impact. It creates the potential to change more than just a single company.
GANNI Sustainability Report 2019: Standard Setting
The report itself should be regarded as setting a standard in how sustainability reports are executed. Particularly the honesty and transparency of the report should inspire others to follow suit.
Within the report itself, there are also multiple points where the benefit of industry-wide reporting and comparison is highlighted. This benchmarking of data will allow for industry-wide improvements.
Further Reading: Automated Sustainability Software: Green KPI. Read More