How to Write a Sustainability Report

by Sam Ashe-Edmunds; Updated September 26, 2017
Businesswoman Using Desktop PC At Desk

As more and more small businesses join the ranks of large companies practicing corporate social responsibility, the concept of sustainability is growing. Depending on how broad you define sustainability, it refers to activities such as a company’s efforts to reduce its impact on the environment, increase participation in its community and benefit its workers with more than just a paycheck. Writing a sustainability report should include discussing a company’s objectives, its tactics to meet its goals and the benefits that should occur.

Define Sustainability

Meet with the person or group that is asking you to write the sustainability report to define what they consider sustainability. It might be limited to “green” efforts to make the business more eco-friendly. It might include efforts to work with local charities. It could cover efforts to help employees benefit from wellness, professional training, tuition reimbursement and expanded benefits. Gather as much information as possible on the company’s specific activities related to the sustainability effort and their costs and results.

Create Your Outline

Draft your report outline, which should include an executive summary, a section on the company’s reasons for pursuing sustainability, a section on how the company is pursuing its objectives, a section on costs, a section on the specific benefits the company expects, a status report and a summary with recommendations. Include an appendix with support documentation. An executive summary should give a brief description of what the report contains with little detail. The subsequent sections will provide the details. Put the sections of your report in order so that they create a logical flow and you don’t have to backtrack because one section discusses something you don’t reference until a following section.

State the Company’s Strategic Goals

Write a list of the big-picture goals you will include in the report, which are end goals. Think of these as strategic “why we’re doing this” goals rather than tactical “how we’ll achieve these” objectives. Strategic goals can include improved public relations, reduced spending, higher profits, increased customer loyalty and sales, and an ability to attract better employees.

List the Company’s Sustainability Activities

Provide a section on the specific tactics, or activities, the company is using to address sustainability. For example, the company might define sustainability in terms of reducing its impact on the environment. Its tactics would include installing more efficient lighting, starting a recycling program, paying for employees’ use of public transportation or car pooling, sourcing materials and supplies from green vendors, or reducing the size or energy cost of product packaging.

Provide a Status Report

Write a section of your report that addresses the costs and benefits of the company’s sustainability efforts as of the time of the report. Include the projected costs and benefits, the actual results and projections based on the current results.

Summarize and Give Recommendations

Finish the report with a recap of the project, information about whether the company is meeting its stated goals and any recommendations going forward. Include specific recommendations for each aspect of the project and any big-picture recommendations, which might include adding or dropping specific activities, expanding the program or increasing parts of the program. Follow this section with an appendix that offers proof of your information and/or more detailed explanations.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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