How is the sustainability report project organised and what does it cost?

“In our organisation we have limited resources and the most important is to develop our sustainability work and create results. It’s important that producing the sustainability report does not take too much time from the work that leads to development.”

Judging from the collected responses, it is still most common for a sustainability department to be responsible for producing the sustainability report, but the number of respondents in the ‘Finance or other’ category increased in this year’s survey. This could be interpreted as a closer collaboration between Finance and Sustainability in the responding entities, but might also be a mere coincidence.

The fact remains that regardless of where the responsibility lies, the process does involve a large number of employees from different parts of an entity’s operations and is very time and resource consuming. The employees usually have other tasks that must be performed in parallel during the time that the sustainability report is produced. For this reason, it is very common to use resources and special skills outside of the organisation.

Out of the 116 responses to the question, 77 percent use external competencies when producing the sustainability report compared to 71 percent in 2018. The number of entities doing all the work internally is decreasing and considering the complexity in the process

The people involved in the sustainability report project

  • Project management
  • Production management
  • Stakeholder dialogue
  • Graphic design
  • Text production
  • Photography
  • Illustrations
  • Charts and graphs
  • Language washing
  • Proofreading
  • Translation

How large are the external costs when producing a sustainability report?

survey external costs number of employees

This varies of course a lot depending on the extent and amount of information that is reported and how it’s distributed. For example, some respondents report sustainability information both in the annual report and as a separate publication. 83 respondents answered the question on how large the external costs of the sustainability report are and the average cost for the Swedish respondents is € 28,000 compared to € 32,000 in 2018. The average cost in the UK is € 22,000 and € 33,000 for the Finnish entities. In 2018 approximately 70 percent of respondents had a budget of € 50,000 or less for their sustainability report and the corresponding share this time is 80 percent. Six respondents buy services for more than € 100,000 compared to four in 2018.

Are first-time preparers still using external resources to a large extent?

survey annual report internal external work

There is little change in the functions/tasks performed internally and externally compared to our previous survey. The traditional bureau services, such as graphic design, illustrations as well as graphs and charts and translation are still performed mostly by external service providers, and the project and production management, text production, stakeholder dialogue and proofreading are typically kept in-house. Almost half of the respondents, 45 per cent, are not planning to change any of the key elements in the process for the upcoming report, whereas 23 percent plan to make changes to their graphic design and 18 percent plan changes to their stakeholder dialogues.

How will the work be divided in the near future?

future annual report external internal work
Although the prediction in 2018 among 1/3 of respondents was that they would use somewhat or much more internal resources/competencies in the coming 2–3 years, the use of external resources has increased. 71 per cent of respondents preparing a sustainability report for the first time used external resources, and the corresponding percentage is 78 for the most experienced who have been preparing reports for 4 years or more. However, the predictions of doing more of the work internally over the next 2–3 years remain, so we might revisit this in a future survey. None predict to use much more external resources in this years’ survey.

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