Knowing how to develop and launch a successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and branding your CSR efforts are two very different things. Although there are numerous ways, one of the best ways to effectively brand your program is through an annual report outlining the efforts and accomplishments of the previous last 12 months. While every annual CSR and sustainability report looks different, the goal is the same: to captivate, inform and excite your reading audience.
Keep in mind that your report should be proportionate to the size of your organization and your CSR efforts. So, don't overdo it. This is a brag book, true; just make sure you brand your efforts in a way that further promotes the work in this and adjacent areas of your business. Here are 10 sections you should think about including:
A letter from the CEO or owner(s) of the company should outlines goals, objectives and victories from the past calendar or fiscal year. This is a good place to share your mission statement and core beliefs.
2. Sales sheet
The fact is, many current and potential customers will be picking up this document to review it. Use this customer contact-point as an opportunity to briefly highlight your top or signature products. Point to just a couple and keep it brief.
3. "The family photo"
If possible, and I'm assuming that you're not a company with 10,000 employees, take a group photo, including all company employees. Small businesses will have the easiest time with this. If you can pull this off, it will sell well and highlight the fact that hard-working, caring people are behind your product or service.
4. The data
If you have not already started doing so, begin sharing what it is that your organization is doing within the world of CSR. Some examples:
- Volunteer hours worked
- Monies donated to charities
- Charities, NGOs and nonprofits that your company has teamed with
- Organic/Fair Trade materials used in your products
- Eco-friendly practices used (e.g., a green supply chain)
- CSR and green components of your annual business plan or model
- Details on how your mission and core beliefs support CSR initiatives
- Market share retained/ ained
5. The next generation of products/services
Again, this is a branding initiative; so use this forum to share with current/potential customers what is right around the corner. What products or services are soon to be released? Give readers a taste of what is to come, when it will arrive and how it will impact their lives.
6. A little is good, but a lot is better
Share your plans about future CSR-based initiatives on the horizon. Offer a sneak peak to the programs being discussed which may potentially be offered.
7. Wellness initiatives the company promotes
Consumers want to know about more than the product/service they have grown to love. Many are curious to know what the relationship is between a company and its employees. Share in the annual report whether your employees are running marathons, attending conferences, etc. Share how you are empowering them to become better global citizens.
This also goes for the fringe benefits your company offers. If you offer great paid time off, healthcare benefits, sabbaticals, etc., be sure to say so in your report. Likewise, be sure to discuss diversity and to share favorable statistics, initiatives for recruitment, etc. Nothing promotes a company culture like equal opportunity and programs that are designed to actively engage employees as they travel the road to long-term growth.
8. Promoting your team of experts
Customers want to believe that experts and caring people are behind the products they buy. When it comes to industry certifications, licenses or audits (such as in the food industry, etc.), share these affirmations and brand-strengthening achievements.
9. Compare and contrast
If colorful graphs, pie charts, etc. aid your effort, they should be included, to compare this year's performance with last year's, or that of the year before. Show off your company's growth and its recent changes. Look for ways to display how you are changing and evolving with the times.
Find a heartfelt and creative way to say "stick with us." Consumers want to be sought after, and there is no better time to do this than to impress them with the many initiatives, programs and projects you have under way.
Finally, throughout the report and on as many pages as possible, include the following:
- Additional facts
- Photos (of the product, services provided, employees, vendors/suppliers, customers, etc.
- A lot of color (yes, this will make your report more expensive if you include print copies)
- Your company’s brand
Here are five favorite annual reports I look forward to viewing each year:
1. Clif Bar: http://www.clifbar.com/article/our-five-aspirations
2. Chobani: http://www.chobani.com/foundation
3. Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/year/2013#0-home
4. Target: https://corporate.target.com/annual-reports/2013
5. Charity: Water:
https://www.charitywater.org/about/cw_13_annual_report.pdf (This one happens to be my favorite and, wouldn't you know it, is a no-profit. So much for nonprofits not knowing how to market well!)
To dive even deeper into annual reports, visit http://www.reportwatch.net/best-annual-reports/ for more annual reports to choose from.