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In Scope

Meet Our 2019 Research Team: The Content Crew

To kick off the seventh edition of The Works’ 2019 Sustainability Reporting Trends, we asked our research team about this year’s findings and observations. Here’s what our report content specialists had to say.

A woman puts glasses on.

Momina Sumbal, Sustainability Analyst

What is your role on the trends research project?

As a Sustainability Analyst, I conduct our content research; I audit the sustainability reports in our sample to identify trends and best practices. I look at how companies report on their alignment to international frameworks, material issues, stakeholder engagement, community investment, governance, supply chain, and performance data. I also present the best examples to the team so we can discuss the connection between content, design, and digital elements. Also, spreadsheets. Lots of spreadsheets!

What stands out to you most about the reporting you’re seeing this year?

I appreciate seeing more companies report to specific SDG targets and international frameworks such as the GRI this year – it shows a commitment to reporting more measurable and credible information. I’ve also seen an increase in PDF interactivity, data visualization, engaging online elements and so forth – all to enhance the user experience, which makes going through all the data more fun!

What don’t you see that you’d like in sustainability communications?

I think the next step in sustainability communications is a heightened sense of honesty – I’d like to see more companies discussing the bad and the ugly. Instead of shying away from discussing negative events, reporting on them and discussing next steps to improve the situation shows an authentic commitment to holding yourselves accountable and working to do the right thing.

What has been your favourite sector to work on and why?

The Retail and Consumer Goods sector had some incredibly engaging and unique reports this year that marry data and design in a beautiful way. I always love seeing the different ways in which these companies disclose their performance data (while also staying true to their brand). I think this sector did a great job of complementing their data-heavy content with an element of authentic storytelling.

We’ve developed a few inside jokes on the trends team. Which is your fave?

If the audio on a video clip doesn’t work, our Marketing Manager and designated Digital Strategy Queen, Kate, will do a live voice over for our benefit. I’ve never heard a human emit such accurate race car noises.

 

A man in a suit looks to his right. He is wearing an SDG pin.

Wes Gee, Director Of Sustainability

What is your role on the trends research project?

I’m overseeing the project to ensure we have a fantastic sample of companies and that we cover many of the right topics. I offer many years of experience in sustainability reporting trends that strengthen the knowledge and perspective of our research team; and also benefit from the learning of new trends and practices along with the rest of the team.

What stands out to you most about the reporting you’re seeing this year?

I’m seeing many companies take a more intentional approach to their reporting, by developing microsites, reports and supplements for specific audiences. As companies continue to enhance their disclosures by adopting SASB, TCFD and SDG reporting, their investments seem to be shifting from microsites to more niche PDF reporting, video development and improved digital/social strategies.

What don’t you see that you’d like in sustainability communications?

While companies seem to be offering greater data and content that aligns to recognized frameworks (such as the TCFD and the SDGs), I would like to see more context in several areas, including: how materiality analyses and scenario analyses were conducted and what was learned during this process; which SDGs are prioritized (based on where companies have positive and negative impacts) and how specific targets align with their own goals; how “impact” is starting to be calculated by companies that discuss “value creation” (i.e., beyond outcomes); and how organizations are really collaborating internally and with partners to drive positive or regenerative changes.

What has been your favourite sector to work on and why?

I have not been actively in the weeds for any specific sector, but one that I have recently enjoyed working with is financial services. Based on our research and in our own work with BMO, I can see many recent changes happening in this space. There is also some focus on making positive changes to operational footprints and economic impacts. But more interestingly, there is growing emphasis on assessing risks, and influencing tough decisions. These often relate to lending and investment practices which address critical issues such as climate change and social responsibility. This broader value chain approach to sustainability is both exciting and essential.

We’ve developed a few inside jokes on the trends team. Which is your fave?

So many to choose from. There is the low brow “circles, circles, circles” that everyone can immediately flag, whereas the #SDGcrime is an area where we’re growing our team’s sophistication – both in the proper application of the SDGs (content) and in meeting the needs of the brand police (design).

 

A woman is smiling in a polka-dot shirt.

Aparna Venkatachalam, Sustainability Consultant

What is your role on the trends research project?

As the Project Manager of the Reporting Trends project, I’m overseeing the project to ensure we are on track with our Trends research and production of our final report. Given my sustainability background, I also audit a few reports. I cover some of the content research, sharing my insights and learning with the team during our weekly geek-outs about new sustainability reporting trends and best practices. I have expertise in the SDG framework and I particularly enjoy doing SDG policing and keeping an eye out for #SDGcrimes.

What stands out to you most about the reporting you’re seeing this year?

It is encouraging to see greater reporting to material SDGs and specific SDG targets this year. It indicates a commitment to measuring and achieving progress towards these global goals. It is also great to see increased alignment to international frameworks, such as the TCFD and the application of principles of integrated reporting. It shows that sustainability is getting more deeply embedded into corporate strategy, through enhanced corporate disclosure.

What don’t you see that you’d like in sustainability communications?

I’d like to see greater transparency in sustainability reporting – sharing stories of success, as well as the challenges, so that reporting is not one-sided. This will show that companies recognize areas where they are struggling and are making an effort to improve. This will also allow stakeholders to connect with companies better, and might pave the way for successful partnerships and collaboration.

What has been your favourite sector to work on and why?

The Real Estate sector had some pretty interesting sustainability reporting trends this year. It is heartening to see greater uptake of the TCFD by companies in this sector, which shows the growing recognition of climate change as a risk. The value creation approach is also being widely embraced by this sector because it easily shows how they are tapping into different “capitals” and contributing value back.

We’ve developed a few inside jokes on the trends team. Which is your fave?

There are several good ones to choose from this year. Many of these were also captured in the first ever game of #TrendsBingo. My favourite joke however is… “Circles, circles, circles”.

 

The 2019 Edition of our Sustainability Reporting Trends and Best Practices launches in September.

Be sure to sign up for In Scope Digest to receive your copy. 



Madi Lantz

Madi has worked as the Marketing Assistant at The Works since 2018. She is in the final stretch of completing her Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management at Dalhousie University. She lives by the 3 S's - Social Media, Starbucks & Shoes


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