Today, sustainability is on just about everyone’s minds and is quickly becoming a cornerstone of responsible organizations’ strategies. The United Nations has been clear that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet” by 2030 will require a collective effort that includes both multinational corporations and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Companies that focus on Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues can not only deliver better outcomes for the planet and people, they can also see a positive effect on their bottom line. That’s because stakeholders are increasingly looking to purchase from, work for, and invest in companies that have sustainable practices.
How can you convey your commitment to and innovations in sustainability to your customers, clients, employees, and investors? Through an engaging sustainability report.
Sustainability is so important, sustainability reports may become mandatory for many organizations. In April 2021, the EU’s European Commission revised the Non-Financial Reporting Directive’s (NFRD) regulatory framework for non-financial information in EU Member States. Companies that fall within the scope of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will be required to publish information on their activities and initiatives across their entire business, including supply chains, related to:
- Environmental protection (ecological footprint and CO2 emissions)
- Social responsibility and treatment of employees
- Respect for human rights
- Fighting corruption and bribery
- Company board diversity (age, gender, education, and professional experience)
After the CSRD is translated into national laws, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 companies across the EU — 15,000 in Germany, alone — will fall within the scope and eventually be required to issue non-financial reports, with the initial group reporting in 2025 on their 2024 fiscal year.
Even if the EU’s CSRD does not require your company to issue a sustainability report, it’s probably a good idea to be proactive and publish one.
A clear, well-written sustainability report allows you to enhance and protect your corporate reputation while building brand esteem among stakeholders, all of whom are increasingly making values-based decisions. Sustainability reporting offers enormous opportunities to distinguish your organization from the competition by highlighting and explaining your ESG and CSR performance, including diversity and inclusion accomplishments, progress on other social issues, and compliance with human rights and anti-corruption efforts.
The roots of sustainability reporting
How companies evaluate, qualify, and communicate their CSR and ESG efforts has come a long way since the 1960s, when just a handful of European and U.S. companies publicly recognized their societal roles beyond their fiduciary duties, 1970, when the first Earth Day began to raise the public’s awareness of companies’ effects on the environment, and 1989, when several of the world’s largest multinational companies published their first environmental reports.
With the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the UN sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via participating nations’ policies compelling companies operating in or selling to those countries, to reduce their CO2 emissions.
By the late 1990s, corporations began voluntarily using the “triple bottom line” accounting framework to balance their fiscal performance with their affects on society and the environment. In 1997, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) was founded to provide a standardized framework to help companies identify, gather, and report non-financial information in a reliable and comparable way. In 2000, the GRI’s framework became the first global standards for sustainability reporting; in 2010, the UN recognized the GRI standards as the basis for sustainability reporting; today, it is the most widely used framework across more than 90 countries.
While in the early decades of non-financial reporting, information would be issued in separate environmental or management reports, in the last two decades, as financial and sustainability performance have further enmeshed, companies have moved towards integrated reporting of their financial and sustainability accomplishments and goals.
In 2014, the EU adopted the NFRD, requiring some 11,700 large companies to disclose non-financial information, and in April 2021, the EU amended the NFRD with the CSRD. Companies are encouraged to align with the GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the UN’s Global Compact (UNGC), the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 26000, and the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) Tripartite Declaration.
Why partner with language experts?
Sustainability reports can spark stakeholder engagement, engender trust in the company, its brands, and its services, and reinforce the company’s core messaging, but above all, they must provide accurate information and align with mandatory EU reporting standards.
With regulations requiring sustainability reports to become more comprehensive in scope, laden with mandatory terminologies and measurements, it’s particularly important that the reports be consistent across iterations in all target markets. With experienced translators, who are cross-cultural experts making precise, accurate language choices, you can ensure your sustainability reports will resonate with stakeholders in their language across all markets in which you operate.
Process that works for you
As a premium language partner for international communications, we understand what it takes to create nuanced adaptations of financial, sustainable and integrated reports with consistent messaging across multiple markets and languages.
We have more than a decade of experience partnering with clients to create exceptional sustainability reports, starting with adaptations of the first sustainability report published by a DAX 30 company in 2011.
For sustainability reports, we use a process similar to how we translate, transcreate and edit clients’ annual financial reports into multiple languages; we build interdisciplinary account teams that work closely with our clients’ corporate communications, Sustainability/CSR, and IR teams. And since organizations use different editorial systems and workflows, we adapt to clients’ processes and coordinate with clients’ agencies for maximum efficiency.
Through the full range of services from translation and cross-cultural language checks to copywriting, editing, layout checks and desktop publishing, we maintain your report’s alignment with the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (and additional EU guidelines) and have you covered in the final miles to publishing your report.
Ready to get started?
Reporting on your sustainability strategies for the first time? Looking to improve your current reporting to bring your sustainability activities to life and better engage stakeholders? Either way, it’s never too early to start planning! And, it’s just the right time to get ahead of the coming legislation.
At Leinhäuser Language Services, we can help you effectively communicate your sustainability efforts so you can comply with reporting regulations, instill stakeholder confidence, and build esteem around your business. Whether you’re publishing a separate sustainability report or incorporating sustainability updates in your annual financial report, we’ll ensure you do so with engaging storytelling in every language you require.
Leinhäuser is a trusted advisor and a leading provider of the full range of language services for DAX, MDAX and Fortune 500 companies, and the small- and medium-sized enterprises of Austria’s, Germany’s, and Switzerland’s “Mittelstand.”
We look forward to learning about your specific requirements, answering your questions, and helping you effectively communicate your sustainability story.
Connect with us at SustainabilityReports@leinhaeuser.com.