In Scope

Meet the 2020 Research Team: Content

To introduce the latest edition of The Works Design’s 2020 Sustainability Reporting Trends, we asked our research team what surprised them the most about this year’s trends. Here is what our content team had to say:

Aishwarya Ramchandran, Sustainability Analyst Intern

Aishwarya Ramchandran, Sustainability Analyst Intern
What is your role on this year’s trends research project?

As the intern, my role is to audit the content found in the reporting suite of the companies in our sample. I look at things like the frameworks companies report to, how stakeholder engagement is approached, as well as other reporting components like materiality and governance. I also assess the credibility and transparency of reports. I also look at smart reporting: the company’s ability to speak to different stakeholders in different ways.

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

Amongst all the sectors, the one that I liked working on most was the Consumer Goods sector – the companies that we purchase our everyday products from. It was relatable, relevant and enjoyable. Specifically, it was intriguing to observe their sustainability strategies and commitments, and evaluate them to form an opinion as a consumer. It made me rethink my own behaviour!

What shifts have you seen in sustainability reporting due to COVID-19?

I think a growing number of companies are recognizing the value of pursuing long-term targets, and adhering to the SDGs. COVID-19 brought to light the need to make positive social and environmental impacts. It shows why we need to push for long-term resiliency, and companies want to show they are protecting their workforce and communities.

What was your favourite report from this year’s sample?

Many reports were really well done, but my favourite was Enel’s, from the utilities sector. It was easy to read, with a strong narrative. There was a good balance of text and data, and most importantly, their performance metrics, sustainability strategies and targets really show strong credibility.

What are three things that you need in your at-home workspace while auditing the sample of companies?

Coffee, a comfy chair and my colourful set of auditing notes.

Uzair Jaffer, Sustainability Analyst

Uzair Jaffer, Sustainability Analyst

What is your role on this year’s trends research project?

I supported Ash and Wes as a content reviewer. Overall, I assessed 10–15 companies on their reporting practices across all the major sectors, and curated best practice examples from the reporting I reviewed based on specific criteria.

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

I liked working on consumer goods the most. I felt a connection with a lot of the companies because their products are part of my everyday life, and there were brands that I identify with (i.e., Unilever and Nike). The reporting from certain sectors, like utilities and natural resources – is not aimed at a consumer audience, and I don’t identify with the companies as much.

What shifts have you seen in sustainability reporting due to COVID-19?

I’ve seen an increased focus on health and safety disclosures. It seems like companies have felt the need to explain the measures they’ve put in place, to keep employees and customers healthy and safe from COVID-19. This was most often in the form of a statement within the CEO/Chairman letter. I’ve also seen more data disclosures in reports released after April that speak to how many staff in different regions have been infected with COVID. This was particularly evident in the mining sector (which makes sense, considering workers are often in close proximity).

What was your favourite report from this year’s sample?

Can I really only choose one? I’m not the biggest fan of tobacco but Phillip Morris International’s 2019 Integrated Report (Progress Towards a World Without Cigarettes) was my favourite report to read. They definitely have a clear vision on what they want to help deliver (a smoke-free future), are focused on the long term, and effectively report on the issues their stakeholders care about most. They really get sustainability reporting (regardless how you feel about them) and their full reporting suite, including their website and supplementary documents, met the mark from a content and design perspective.

I enjoyed Nike (it was an effective and fun report to review) and Newmont as well (shameless plug, since I supported the review of their reporting frameworks).

What are three things that you need in your at-home workspace while auditing the sample of companies?

I need a cup of tea because reading, reviewing and tea go really well together. I also need my glasses (my eyesight is deteriorating by the minute) and some good music.

 

Wes Gee, Sustainability Director

Wes Gee, Sustainability Director

What is your role on this year’s trends research project?

I’m the project lead, often participating in our weekly “geek out” meetings, discussing observations and trends, and will be the happy recipient of this hard (and smart) work, because I’ll be presenting the results of our research at conferences, for current and prospective clients, and at universities.

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

My favourite sector to research and discuss this year was financial services – based on the evolution of sustainability communications and reporting we’ve seen. My initial interest in this entire space has been based on my belief in the important role that this sector must play to drive massive change. We’re not there yet, but we’re seeing plenty of exciting developments in lending, investing and governance.

What shifts have you seen in sustainability reporting due to COVID-19?

Definitely a more sobering tone among many reporters that offers perspective on the immediate and wider implications of COVID on individual business models, while also showing readers that they have the necessary policies and programs in place to protect their people and the communities where they work. I’m more energized, though, when I see how COVID has, in some cases, helped companies redefine their purpose and value, by focusing broadly on their strengths, rather than how they can provide an existing service a bit better the following year.

What was your favourite design/digital campaign/report from this year’s sample?

I don’t generally pick favourites, but over the years I have really appreciated the balance of transparent content and thoughtful illustrations from Maersk Group. Though I’ve also been massively impressed by the quality of disclosures from Newmont and top-notch design and storytelling from both Vancity and GTAA.

What are three things that you need in your at-home workspace while auditing the sample of companies?

Coffee (with turmeric and coconut oil). A really big screen to appreciate all that’s possible. And Slack to discuss and deliberate among my colleagues.

 

The Works has been tracking key trends in corporate reporting and communications for over two decades. Our insights have helped shape the look, feel, functionality and content of leading corporate reports. The 2020 edition of our Sustainability Reporting Trends and Best Practices launches in September.

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

 



Madi Lantz

Madi has worked as the Marketing Coordinator at The Works since 2018. She recently graduated from the Bachelor of Commerce program in Marketing Management at Dalhousie University. She lives by the 3 S's - Social Media, Starbucks & Shoes


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