Sustainability Reporting 101 - Part 5: Five Ways to Build Your Sustainability Report Team

Sustainability Reporting 101 - Part 5: Five Ways to Build Your Sustainability Report Team

In order to build a good corporate sustainability report (CSR), it is important to have a solid team in place. The steps to recruit and motivate that team, however, are not unique to sustainability. Solid project management, expert networking and persuasive leadership are among the key business skills needed to guide your team in delivering a world-class report.

Once you have identified the key experts needed for your sustainability report team, you need to get them onboard, ensure that everyone is contributing what is needed, and keep them motivated. After all, a sustainability report requires help from people who probably see sustainability reporting as an add-on to their ‘real’ job. This makes putting together an enthusiastic team that works together cohesively more than a little bit challenging. There WILL be bumps along the way. Many of these will result from things outside of your control, such as company politics, personality conflicts or technical difficulties. So it is critically important to pay close attention to the details that are under your control in order to create a positive team environment that generates enthusiasm and encourages ongoing participation.

So, here are some basic, practical ways to get and keep people engaged:

Set Expectations

Everybody hates a last minute request that requires a mad dash to meet a deadline. This is especially frustrating when the work could easily have been accomplished with advancednotice. Help your team by building a project plan with a realistic timeline. The plan should clearly assign deliverables, list key meeting dates, and establish deadlines so everyone knows what to expect and when. Share the project plan early and be sure to communicate changes in a timely manner. This will allow your team to build the reporting workload into their schedule for the year and prevent the frustrations of last minute requests.

Explain the WIFM (What’s In it For Me?)

Beyond the business reasons for reporting (outlined here), make sure that your team members see the personal benefit of providing their expertise to the sustainability reporting team. Let people know that they are going to get noticed – in a good way – for helping with data, content reviews, and stakeholder relationships. Your team members will be more eager to invest their own time and energy in the project if it is recognized as high profile and driven by top executives. It is also good to generate excitement around the opportunity that comes with being on the ground floor of a company initiative that will have a long-term positive impact on the organization.

Be Nice

Unfortunately, being nice sometimes gets lost in the fast-paced and stressful world of corporate deadlines, customer demands, and executive expectations. In order to be successful, your team needs to work well together, bringing their individual expertise and willingness to collaborate, to create a top-notch report. To get the best results, it is important to make participating on your team a pleasant experience.  Even the little things can go a long way. For example, I once found out that one member of the report team had a favorite soda, so I made sure to provide some at every meeting. Ask nicely for help and schedule meetings in a comfortable location at a time convenient for everyone. Going the extra mile to provide food helps, too!

Watch the Clock      

Recognize that time is a critical resource for everyone, so be respectful of the demands you place on your team. Start and finish meetings on time (or early!). Stick to the project plan as closely as possible. Make providing data and reviewing content as easy and efficient as possible for your team members (and the network of colleagues they’ll be contacting on behalf of the report). Good tools include standardized spreadsheets, SharePoint sites, and online services to capture feedback in a single location. Inevitably, not all recommended changes/edits are incorporated into the final version, so make sure to complete the feedback loop so that contributors understand why they might not see their input in the final version. It is important for team morale that no one feels that their input was a waste of time. 

Share the Glory

Once your amazingly successful report is released, make sure to share the credit and recognize the hard work of the entire team. Send thank you notes to your team members. Go the extra step and send a note of appreciation to their bosses. If there is positive media coverage or stakeholder feedback, share that with everyone, too. Now that the team has made it successfully through the trenches together, gather everyone to celebrate your collective accomplishment. Better yet, meet over cocktails! Soon enough it will be time to start the next report…

Because producing a successful report involves a lotof hard work from many people, the team dynamics need to support rather than distract from the goal. These five steps will help you to manage the thingsthat are under your control in order to get and keep you and your team wellpositioned to overcome obstacles when they do arise. 


Rebecca Treacy-Lenda, a Strategist at Emotive Brand, is an award winning communications professional with more than a decade of experience in corporate communications and public relations. Rebecca specializes in sustainability strategy and communications having managed the industry-leading UPS sustainability report for several years.

Rebecca is part of the team at Emotive Brand, an award-winning brand and design consultancy that transforms businesses by making brands matter more to people.

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