Key Point 2: Understanding what others think you should report on
Why do you need to understand what others think you should report on?
- Your interested parties will be the people who read your report
- Others may have heard about your sustainability initiatives and want to find out more
- People may expect you to report using best practice frameworks
- Report readers may want to compare your report with another report
- You can demonstrate leadership and transparency to your interested parties by producing a balanced report.
Fiona Pelham provides more information in a short video. You can read a transcript of this video below.
At this stage you will have decided what you want to report on and why, but it’s very important to consider what others think you should be reporting on.
Who are these others? These are your interested parties or stakeholders. For example, your suppliers, your staff, your clients, your sponsors.
It’s important to identify a way that you can ask them what they would like you to report on. You will learn a lot by listening to this group as they are most likely to be the people that will read your report.
There are some other things to consider as well, around understanding what others think you should report on. Remember, in today’s social media environment people may well have heard the successes you’ve achieved or the challenges you faced. So they will be expecting to read a balanced report.
In other words, a report that talks about your challenges and how you dealt with them as well as celebrating your success. Remember as well to think about national laws or national best practice.
For example, there could be a national law for best practice around carbon reporting. One of your brand values may be leadership and therefore your interested parties, or the people that will be reading your report, will expect you to report on this best practice area.
Here are some other things to think about, when you are considering what others may want you to report on.
Think about the accuracy of the data that you can provide, what will the report readers think about that accuracy level. Also, the reliability of this data, if it is the first time that you are measuring something, it is worth telling your report readers that so they understand it.
Consider also how you can make your measurements comparable with others, and very clearly communicated, so people reading your report may well read other reports and want to compare like for like.
Remember that while your report is your story, and your measurements, the people that you are writing it for are your interested parties and the report readers. Remember to consider what their thoughts are likely to be.
The key takeaway when thinking about those interested parties is to remember that balanced reporting is very important. This really means reporting on the positive successes as well as the negative and challenging issues that you may have dealt with during your reporting period.
It’s okay to tell a story of how you are addressing these challenges, but your report readers are likely to be suspicious of your report if it doesn’t include the challenges that you are facing. So balanced reporting is a very important concept.
How you ensure that you have taken into account, and responded to, stakeholder interests and expectations.
Your report should include both positive and negative aspects of your sustainability performance in order to produce a report that is unbiased and contains all relevant information, good or bad.
You should, where possible, present your results in a way that allows report readers to a) compare your organization's reports over time and b) compare your organization's reports to those from other organizations.
Accuracy and Reliability
Your data should be with an acceptable margin of error, with any estimates clearly indicated. For numerical data, the accuracy and reliability will depend on the methods used to collect the data; for non-numerical data the detail and clarity will influence accuracy and reliability.
This presentation provides more detail on understanding what others want you to report on. You can read a summary of the presentation below.
Capturing feedback from interested parties
In the previous key point, we talked about deciding what to report on and why, and an important aspect of this was engaging with your interested parties.
Interested parties – also known as stakeholders – are any groups or individuals who can affect, or be affected by your events, operations or activities. So how can you begin to capture feedback? Firstly, you need to make sure that you know who your interested parties are – you will already have done this if you have completed the ISO 20121 module.
If not, take some time to consider who the relevant interested parties are for your events. These could be sponsors, attendees, other funders, local government, governing bodies for your sport, industry associations, suppliers, exhibitors and anybody else who is involved in the planning, production and delivery for your event.
Understanding what these people are interested in hearing about from you (and therefore what you can consider reporting on) can allow you to start collecting the relevant data, and reporting it in a way that is relevant and accessible for them. For example, your sponsors may have an interest in a particular area of your sustainability. This doesn’t mean that you should only report on this area, but it does mean that you should consider including this, and how you can make this data as easy to find and understand as possible.
There are a number of ways that you can gather feedback from interested parties. You can do this formally via consultations, or through survey forms online or at an event. You could also do this informally through conversations – but remember to document what their feedback was.
The more people that you engage with at the start, the larger audience you will have with an interest in reading your report when it is published.
Creating a balanced report
When reporting, you shouldn’t just give information about what went well; you should also share your challenges. Why would you want to share something that didn’t go well? Think about reporting as a journey – you will not just be producing a standalone report, but will be continuing to report over the next few months, years or events. This will create a picture of your organisation. By including challenges in your reports, you can demonstrate in future reports how you have overcome these challenges. In terms of your audience, it is also a great way to share best practice – if you have overcome a challenge then you may be able to help others in a similar position.
It can also open up opportunities for others to support you with your challenges. For example, if you had challenges relating to attendees not putting waste into the correct recycling bins, and you report on this, then it will raise awareness amongst attendees for future events so that they understand how they can best help you to make your sport events more sustainable.
National and international best practice
If someone reading your report is used to reading reports from other organisations as well, and these are all in the same format, then it may make sense for you to use these same formats to make the data more accessible to your audience. By using national or international frameworks, you can also avoid any accusations of just reporting in the way that you want to – so you are showing that there is a structure and methodology behind your report. This can also potentially support with the promotion of your report, and you may be able to get your report included or featured on websites relating to those frameworks.
One example of international best practice that we have mentioned is the Global Reporting Initiative Event Organizers Sector Supplement. In the next few key points we will be talking about some of the key categories which are included in this framework, so that you can start to think about how they can apply to your event.
Accuracy and reliability
For a report to be useful, it needs to be clear, but it also needs to be accurate – people reading the report need to be able to trust the information, and it will also allow you to produce more consistent reports. Consider sharing with your audience how you have reported on your data and the methodology that you have used, and remember that you can include estimates – but again, you will need to show how these have been calculated. You can then set targets for future reporting to improve the accuracy of that data.
The final aspect to consider in relation to your audience is the concept of comparability. How can your data be compared to other reports that you have produced (or will be producing). For example, if you report in one way now, and then change how you report, it will be harder to compare your data year on year. You can also think about how you can make your report easy to compare against reports from other organisations.
Don’t be scared of competing against other organisations who seem to have done more than you around sustainability. By sharing your initiatives and the steps that you are taking, you are already showing leadership and doing more than many other organisations.
A report showcasing the sustainability initiatives taken within Beach Volleyball, who worked with AISTS and the Sustainable Sport and Event Toolkit (SSET).
Trends in Sustainability Reporting
A video from the Global Reporting Initiative which looks at the importance of monitoring, measuring and reporting as well as who is reporting, and how.
Review stakeholder engagement feedback
Once you have spoken to interested parties, you can review the feedback that you have received in order to help you decide what should be included in your report. In your report, you should include the methods that you chose to engage with these interested parties, and how you considered their responses.
Review national and international best practice
It makes sense to report in a way that is recognised as best practice in your region, country or internationally. You can look at the way in which other similar organisations are reporting (although they may be reporting informally through websites and case studies so you may decide there is a leadership opportunity if you report differently too).
You should decide on the reporting framework that is right for you and also provides the relevant information in the most appropriate way for your stakeholders. In your report, include any plans for increasing the content that you will be reporting on to align with any national or international best practice.