Key Point 1: Deciding what to report on and why
How do you decide what to report on?
You can consider the following factors:
- What the people reading your report will want to see
- Whether the report content is significant or relevant in relation to your operations and events
- What you have previously reported on (this will allow you to have consistent and comparable data)
- The scope of your report (for example, you may report on just one event, or one category, such as waste)
- The data that you have available
- The reporting format and framework you will use
Fiona Pelham talks about how to decide what to report on, and why. You can read a transcript of the video below.
Your very first step when starting to report is to decide what to report on and why. When you start your reporting journey, deciding what you are actually going to write and tell your community is a very important first step.
As a starting point, here are two things to consider. Firstly, what do your community think that you should be reporting on? And secondly, what have you already reported on?
When you start your reporting journey, it makes sense to look at things that you may internally have been reporting, for example to top management. And also to think about systems you may already have in place which will help you measure. For example, you may have been measuring and monitoring your energy bills to keep in line with your annual budget. These are all things which you can use in your reporting.
A key consideration for understanding what to report on is to take the time to think about why you would report that.
Are you choosing to report on something which is going to influence your stakeholders, or your customers, or your visitors? Are you choosing to report on something which is relevant for the bigger conversation around sustainability and climate change? Are you choosing to report on something which you are very good at, or even that you are bad at?
It may sound strange to suggest reporting on things you are bad at, but you don't want your report to read like a piece of marketing material. Instead your report should be an honest approach to the journey through sustainability which you are taking.
When deciding what to report on, there are some obvious things to think about. What is the scope of your report? Does it cover one venue or one event, or many venues and many events? What is the timeframe of your report? Is there something which happened before the report start date which is going to affect your report? And if so, can you include reference to this? What have you reported on before?
Even if you don't think you have reported, through press releases and industry pieces of communication you will have been sharing your story. When will you report again? This is key for understanding what people will expect to read in your report.
Finally, you may choose to use a reporting framework, for example the Global Reporting Initiative Event Organizers Sector Supplement (GRI EOSS). This framework will include indicators which will ask you to measure specific items and report on those. It's always a good idea to use a reporting framework, such as the recognised GRI EOSS because this means that you are going to be reporting in a similar way to people around the world.
The materiality of a topic is whether it is relevant and/or important enough to require inclusion in a report.
Stakeholder or Interested Party
An individual or group who can affect, or be affected by, the activities of the organization or event.
The boundaries of your report; what you will report on.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a framework for writing a sustainability report. The main categories are applicable for all industries, but an additional set of reporting categories have recently been launched for the event sector. This is known as the Event Organizers Sector Supplement (EOSS).
Categories for reporting on and specific criteria which should be included in a report which uses the GRI framework.
This presentation covers how you can decide what to include in your report. You can read a summary of the key points of the presentation below.
Firstly, you should consider your report audience, which will be your interested parties, or stakeholders. These are people (or organisations) that could affect, or be affected by, your events, operations or business activities. The audience is going to be people who would be interested in finding out how you have done in relation to sustainability.
These could be sponsors, people who have provided funding, delegates or attendees, or even people who would be interested in your marketing literature, as you can use your report as a promotional and marketing tool.
Who would be interested in reading a report, and what would they want to read about? Do bear in mind that there may be some things that you want to report that your interested parties are not asking for - and that's fine. If you understand why it's important to report on a particular area, then you should go ahead and include this in your report. Sometimes people don't realise what they want to see until they see it!
You should also consider your previous reporting. For example, if you produce a financial report, you will have information relating to your economic performance. Alternatively, you may have produced a case study or short summary of other sustainability initiatives and so may already have a background that you can use for your future reports.
You may wish to continue to report in a more formal or informal way, so the format of your previous reports may influence your decisions on how to report in the future.
You can also take into account any feedbak that you may have had about your previous reports, so if there is something that your interested parties have found useful or informative then you will probably want to include that again. Similarly, if there is something that hasn't been included previously and that people have asked for, then it makes sense to include this in any future reporting as well.
You should consider the scope of your report. When thinking about the scope, consider what you wat to include (based on your report audience and your previous reporting) and whether you are going to report on one event, part of an event, a series of events or your entire business activities in relation to sustainability.
You may want to focus on a few key areas, for example, the areas that you are focusing on as part of your ISO 20121 management system (if this is something that you are implementing). If one of your objectives is to reduce your waste, you may wish to focus on waste activities as part of your report. If you have done a lot of community engagement, you may also want to include this work in the scope of your report.
Whatever you decide, it's important to be clear at the start of your report on what your scope is. That will mean that anybody reading the report will have a clear idea of the information that will be available. You can aolso include how you plan to extend your scope in the future. For example, if you are just reporting about waste in this report, you could explain that in future reports you will be reporting on waste and biodiversity intitiatives, for example.
As long as you are open and explain clearly what will and what won't be in the report, then you can set out clear expectations.
Considering the data that you have available is also going to influence what you decide to report on. You may find that from previous reporting, you have a lot of data - so you may choose to inlude this data in your curent reporting. There may be data that you have collected but that hasn't yet featured in any previous reporting. This would mean that you could include additional data in your report.
For example, if you are using a venue, and the venue has available data on its energy and water use, then it makes sense to include this in your report because it is an easy step to take and the data is already there.
If there is something that you are very keen to report on, but you don't have the data, then you do still have some options available. Firstly, you can provide an estimate. If you do this, you should clearly explain why you don't have access to the specific data, and also clearly show how you have calculated or reached your estimation. This will allow readers to understand that it is not necessarily 100% accurate data, but it gives them an idea of how you are performing in relation to sustainability.
If you are starting with an estimate, you may wish to include information about how you plan to start capturing or measuring that data going forwards. For example, if you want to include information about how attendees travelled to your event, you can provide an estimate in your first report, based on where you think people will be coming from, or based on registration information. You can then explain the plans that you have in place to obtain more accurate information going forwards,
There may be some information that you do not wish to report on even though you have the data, and that is fine too; if that is how you have set ou your report scope then you don't need to include every piece of data you have. It is up to you to decide what should be included, although your report should be balanced.
One way to decide on the information to include is using national or international frameworks for reporting. There are a number of options available when considering your sustainability report. The first option is to continue or to start to do informal reporting such as a page on your website that details your sustainability initiatives, or a case study that includes some aspects of recognised frameworks but is not a full sustainability report.
It could be a video case study which is showcased via social media - reporting is really just about sharing best practice, your sucesses, and also your challenges, as it is important to provide a balanced report.
One of the international frameworks available is called the Global Reporting Initiative. This is an international framework for writing a sustainability report and is used by a number of top companies and corporate organisations across the world.
In the last year, a special sector supplement for the event industry has also been launched. It is called the Event Organizers Sector Supplement so this framework is sometimes abbreviated to GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) EOSS (Event Organizers Sector Supplement). This supplement has categories or "indicators" as they are referred to which are really relevant to the event industry. You can use the GRI framework to report on many different aspects of your events, and if you're producing a formal report you do need to include some additional categories (indicators) beyond the event sector supplement.
However, you may wish to start by focusing on the event sector supplement and producing a less formal report. The important thing is to start reporting, so don't be overwhelmed by thinking that you need to produce a 200 page formal document, when actually you can just start with one page which showcases some of your initiatives.
The important thing is to start sharing and to spread your ideas, challenges and successes.
1. A report from Sustainable Events Ltd created using the GRI guidelines.
2. A case study from the SSET Wiki which highlights the initiatives that were taken in certain areas around sustainability, and includes their approach for choosing areas for focus.
What is GRI EOSS?
A summary from Positive Impact about the Event Organizers Sector Supplement for sustainability reporting.
Engage with interested parties
Consider who your interested parties are (groups or individuals who could affect, or be affected by your organisation's activities or events).
Ask them what they would like to see in a report; you could do this informally (you should still document the responses) or set up a survey or focus group to find out what key interested parties want you to report on.
Find out what you have already reported on
Look for website pages about sustainability, sections of your annual report, or any other publicity material you have produced. Make a note of the data that you have already collected and reported.