Content development is the stage of transformation where all the materials and data being collected turn into the actual report that is being presented. It is, however, more than just a “writing-up”, but an on-going process of narrative development of the report that involves collaboration and coordination. A good sustainability report should share the story of a company, show how a company is moving forward, present and highlight the information of a business, instead of a plain write-up of hard facts. GreenCo summarises GRI’s guidance on content development to the following processes:

  1. Benchmarking and gap analysis about report content

By exploring the reports produced by the peer, you may identify best practices in terms of reporting format and content, as well as identify gap and what is required to close these gaps. On-going benchmarking process also helps keep you up-to-date to reporting style and standard of the market and how sustainability is being practised by the industries. Great examples of reports can be found on GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database.

  1. Define report type and structure

To define the reporting type, style, and structure, it is important to consider the key question: who are your readers? From this, it guides you to determine the below:

It is always better that these directions are settled earlier in the process.

The exact content of the sustainability report depends on the GRI Reporting Standards you choose: Core, Comprehensive, or a ‘GRI-referenced’ claim. Details of the differences and criteria to make a claim between Core and Comprehensive standard, or GRI-referenced can be found in Section 3 of GRI 101: Foundation. It is required to set out specific wording for all claims to be used in published materials with disclosures based on the Standards. Also, you can refer to the materiality assessment that has been produced in the earlier stage in determining what content to include in the report.

  1. Organise information and produce content

When organising information and producing content, you need to make sure the report:

  • gives the whole picture but also precise
  • includes all the information that is required
  • applicable and relevant to the industry/activities
  • follow the Reporting Principles
  • include GRI Content Index to ensure the completeness of the report

It is recommended that the report should be concise and engaging. There is no point producing reports that people are not interested in reading after-all (for example, think about if the language is too technical for the lay public to understand). A good report should consist of both graphics and text that best present the information. There are GRI supporting materials available to aid the reporting writing, including the Content Index Tool that can be used as templates, and Digital Reporting Tool that helps publishing.

  1. Translation

It is optional to translate the report in languages where the company operates but it would be useful as it allows wider readership.

  1. Reporting’s internal review, approval and sign-off

This starts from checking draft that is in line with the company’s operation and values, reporting standards and other materials, and proof-reading, to final review and approval by the Board. This process can go forward and backward, so remember to leave enough time before the publication deadline.