Influence

How to Impact Report, according to Harvey Strategic Marketing

Harvey's co-founders talk through their approach for crafting a great impact report.

Article by
James Shackell
Bec and Simon Smallchua at work.

In the first half of 2021, strategic marketing firm Harvey released their second ever Impact Report.

It was a frank and detailed look at the business’ performance in 2020: what they did well, what they could have done better, and how closely they were sticking to their sustainability goals. (All in the teeth of a global pandemic, let’s not forget.)  

It helped that Harvey had recently become a B Corp, which involves one of the most painstaking ethical audits on the planet: a forensic examination of the entire business, from supply chains and banking to the eco-credentials of your printer paper.

After six months of hard work, and a lot of spreadsheets, Harvey produced one of the best-looking impact reports we’ve ever seen. We sat down with co-founders Simon and Bec Smallchua to chat through their process.

Align your goals

The first step when approaching your impact report is to figure out what you want to report on; which aspects of the business deserve to be in there, and which bits you can leave out. Simon and Bec agree the best place to start is your ‘Impact Goals’. Choose five or six key areas for examination, and then work out tangible metrics for each one.

For Harvey, this was the easy bit. They’d already had to set Impact Goals for their B Corp assessment, breaking the business down into Mission, Governance, Community, Environment and Partners. Bec and Simon tracked annual figures for each goal on dedicated spreadsheets. “My best advice is to start small,” says Bec. “There are a million things you can report on, and it can quickly become overwhelming. Pick one or two, maybe water usage and electricity, and say, ‘We’re going to monitor these this year.’”

“And align those goals to your core business,” Simon adds. “So if you make clothes, don’t go off and educate kids about motorcycle safety or something. If you’re causing harm over here, don’t try to reconcile it by doing good in an unrelated field.”

Designed for reading

Simon and Bec wanted Harvey’s Impact Report to actually make an impact, so they hired a copywriter to break down the messaging, and built a dedicated, well-designed website.

“It was so important to have someone come in and take all our blergh and give it structure, give it a story,” Bec says. “And even validate stuff, because a lot of the time we were like, ‘Is this even interesting to anybody?’ Having someone outside the business to provide that perspective was really helpful.”

Bec and Simon didn’t hire a graphic designer until the report was almost finished, which they both admit might have been a mistake. The guys had to teach themselves Webflow and build the report website from scratch. Simon estimates it sucked up about $20k-$30k of the agency’s own time. In hindsight, they’d invest in a good designer from the start. “We paid a designer a few hundred bucks to review our designs, and maybe three grand for the copywriting. Not much to be honest, and it’s all tax deductible of course.”

Start with your negatives

Bec says a lot of brands hold back from impact reporting because they’re worried customers will judge them for their mistakes. But the opposite seems to be true: the more honest you are as a brand, the more respect you’ll earn from your community. “If you hold yourself to account, and if it’s done well, people will read it and engage with it. They’ll see that their values align with yours,” she says.

“You have to talk about the negative things,” Simon agrees. “Start with your core negative impact. Then it becomes less about how awesome you are and more about tackling the problem. It shouldn’t just be a marketing thing.”

For Harvey, some of those negatives and challenges were their supply chain, and how often they donate their services to charitable causes; two metrics that had been set the previous year, and which Simon says they could potentially improve on moving forward.

A template for change

“The main goal wasn’t to win new business – although that was a nice side effect,” says Simon. “We wanted other businesses, who aren’t necessarily social-enterprise B Corp nerds, to look at our report and go, ‘Oh, I could do that!’ or ‘I hadn’t thought about reporting on this. Can you help me?’”

Harvey wanted their Impact Report to prove something: that sustainability reporting doesn’t have to be onerous, or annoying, or even boring. Taking the time to be honest and transparent can be a valuable business tool. “It kind of makes all your business decisions easier,” Simon says, “because every time you want to take on a new client, or start a new project, you can look at the goals you set in the last report and say, ‘Okay, how do we justify that?’

“We’ve had maybe 30 or 40 companies change as a direct result of our report, which, for our tiny business, is a big deal.”

Harvey’s Impact Report Tips

1.     Measure yourself across four or five broad categories. Don’t try to audit everything at once.

2.     Address your negative impact right up front. Be as honest and transparent as you can.

3.     Align your sustainability goals with your core business.

4.     Invest in good design and copywriting. Don’t just generate a PDF.

5.     Share your learnings, and your report templates, with others.

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