Every week for five months, in home offices and kitchens-come-workplaces across Sydney, five staff from coffee roasting company Pablo and Rusty’s met on-screen to tread a road that none of them had travelled before: declaring to the world the impact of their business in their first-ever sustainability impact report.
“There was no rulebook,” says Chris Tate, Operations Manager, who led the project. “The first version of something is always going to be tricky, you have to feel your way through it.”
Chris was adamant that the sustainability report would be produced in-house rather than outsourced, partly because of limited capacity but also because they saw it as a growth exercise.
“We wanted it to be a way of learning about ourselves. When you outsource work that is so intertwined with your core values, you can also outsource the problems. But if you can work out the solutions yourselves you learn so much.”
The result is a simple, attractive and easy-to-digest report of only 12 pages that clearly communicates the company’s goals, motivations and achievements against those goals.
Chris identifies five key steps your team can follow to produce your own impact report.
Step 1. Identify the goals and the data
Pablo and Rusty’s identified a small number of easy-to-understand, measurable goals. These goals had been set two years earlier, thanks to recognition of sustainability as a core brand value.
“We recognised the need to determine a ‘north star’ – something we could point to, something tangible.”
The leadership team chose three goals and gave themselves four years to achieve them: certification with 1% For the Planet; a B-Corp score of more than 100; and that 100% of their packaging will be compostable, biodegradable or recyclable, all by 2025.
Identifying these goals years early had helped Pablo and Rusty’s to set up rich data sources that would help them pinpoint where their greatest impact was, and therefore how they could reduce that impact.
Step 2. Identify the team
Back in late 2020, five staff from different departments across the business had put up their hand in response to a callout from the business leaders.
“We let staff know that this was a passion project,” says Chris. “Staff who wanted to be involved would need to find time within their existing roles – and even at times put in some extra hours.”
But the opportunity to influence the core value of the business was enough to entice five staff to jump on board. They were from every corner, including operations, wholesale and production, and would all share ownership of the project.
“We encouraged every person to own the process and to voice their opinions on how we should do this,” says Chris. “We love healthy discord!”
Chris considers it essential to include brand custodians in the project team.
3. Identify the audience
Whenever they were faced with a challenge, Chris and the team always returned to their audience to guide their decisions.
“Have a really clear idea of who your audience is. That, in itself, informs your design, the length, the tone, the language.”
“We asked ourselves, ‘what part of our audience is the priority, and what matters most to them? What are they excited about? And how do we want to make them feel?’ The process really helped to identify our messaging.”
Step 4. Language, design and graphics
Understanding audience also helped to answer the key questions about “look and feel”.
“We decided our audience wasn’t a corporate audience so we didn’t want corporate speak or a dense, heavy document. We wanted ours to be text-light and short, and to use icons and images.”
“There was so much information we could have communicated,” says Chris.“The biggest challenge was deciding what to include and what to leave out.”
Chris recommends bringing in a designer early.
“I’d advise to bring design into the conversation early. It’ll save you so much time. Design sets the scene for everything.”
Pablo and Rusty’s even had their project team members hand-draw the icons used in the reports, as a way to both keep costs down and as an exercise in identifying the information they wanted to highlight most to readers.
“We deemed our visual and icon creation as critical to the report. It was another way to ensure we crafted something truly authentic.”
These icons are an effective way to identify key brand values and to make it easy for the eye to isolate the most important information.
Step 5. Get it out there!
One of the lessons the Pablo and Rusty team would share with others setting out on their own impact report journey is to have a clear strategy for getting the report out to the world: what channels will you use and how can you tailor your stories to each of those channels?
“We didn’t have a PR agency so we learnt a lot along the way. If you want to engage big mastheads you have to give them plenty of lead time. And also consider breaking the report up into chunks to help you consider how you might get each of those chunks into a social media post.”
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