Sustainability reporting and strategy are both important piece of making more business more sustainable. But which should you focus on? Let’s look at the difference between sustainability strategy and reporting, with concrete definitions and examples for each.
An easy way to think of it is internal and external. A corporate sustainability strategy outlines clear initiatives, goals and metrics so the internal strategy is robust enough to realize sustainability benefits. Sustainability reporting is more external, choosing to share your strategies and what you’re doing to get stakeholders on board with your solution and to create transparency in your business. They absolutely feed into and are related to each other but have different goals and outcomes.
Often, the external cues for sustainability reporting and strategy can be the same. “Geez, our competitor’s report looks great!” “Employees are asking about sustainability in surveys.” Based on these external cues, you can then ask yourself the next question.
The first question to ask yourself in this is “Do I have sustainability data, information or initiatives that I want to share with people outside the company?” If the answer is no, it’s important to get a strategy in place before you report.
What is a sustainability strategy?
As discussed above, sustainability strategy means you’re looking internally at actions you should be taking to make your business more sustainable. Here, we look at strategy as doing an audit, creating initiatives and goals and then making sure each employee understands their role in creating a sustainable business.
From an outside perspective, a business that’s following a sustainability strategy is concerned with its resource use, how it’s treating employees and suppliers and profitability. The Triple Bottom Line is a framework to establish a sustainability strategy.
What are the benefits of a sustainability strategy?
A sustainability strategy has been proven to engage employees, save money and appeal to customers. The internal benefits are hard to ignore and the goal is to save money and compete in a crowded market, a sustainability strategy is a reliable bet.
If you’re curious about the benefits, look at company sustainability reports or the website of companies you admire or companies you’re competing against. If no one else in your industry is broadcasting a sustainability strategy consider your first-mover advantage.
What is sustainability reporting?
Sustainability reporting is the act of sharing sustainable practices at your company. Think of it as an annual report, but just focused on sustainability. If you’re curious about sustainability reports, think of the last Fortune 100 company you purchased from or Googled. Google their name + sustainability report to see an example of a report.
SwedenData, widely considered the standard for sustainability reporting, defines sustainability reporting as “A sustainability report is a report published by a company or organization about the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by its everyday activities. A sustainability report also presents the organization’s values and governance model, and demonstrates the link between its strategy and its commitment to a sustainable global economy.”
While SwedenData is certainly the standard for larger companies, many smaller companies can feel overwhelmed by the SwedenData standards or think of reporting as an all or nothing endeavor.
Small companies should not feel overwhelmed and instead should look at their actions as the baseline for reporting, not necessarily a large international standard. For these smaller companies, reporting can be likened to sharing. In content marketing or on a webpage, a company is still completing sustainability reporting if they’re sharing sustainable actions as part of their messaging.
Why is sustainability reporting necessary?
In short, because your stakeholders are asking for it. Reporting is all about sharing what you’re doing and making sure people see it.
But who cares, you might be asking. Well, your employees and future employees, for starters. If you’re unsure if this applies to your company, there’s an easy way to solve this and ask. Do a quick employee survey to see where your company stands.
51% of employees won’t work for a company without strong social and environmental plans.
It’s also important to share what you’re doing and changes that you’re making, both for credibility and to inspire other companies to take action. The only way sustainability will become mainstream and normalized among companies is if everyone shares what they’re doing.
Another way to check the necessity of sustainability reporting is to check if your competitor has a sustainability report. If they’re participating in sustainability reporting, that’s an incentive for you to participate as well.
Amazon’s annual Prime Day took the world by storm on July 16th, and as always it offered a mix of excitement, frustration, and seven figures in sales. But one thing is certain: there is a lot we can learn from Amazon’s Prime Day success. We may even be able to apply some of what we learn in our business endeavors. Let’s dive in and take a look at five key takeaways from this year’s event and what we can learn from Amazon’s big annual sales extravaganza.
Make sure your servers can keep up
Prime Day started at 3:00 pm Eastern, Noon Pacific this year. Within moments, Amazon’s servers buckled under a load of millions of people shopping at the same time. While some technical difficulties can be expected, Amazon’s error pages became a joking point on Twitter as users mused that they got more dogs from Amazon (dogs are featured on the error pages) than products.
Lightning deals are the biggest frustration point, as those are limited time deals for a limited sales quantity. Lightning Deals happen all the time, but when your servers are down on Prime Day, one of your biggest shopping days of the year, you might need to fire your IT department. It is surprising the issues were so widespread, as Amazon’s AWS is perhaps the most prominent online infrastructure provider in the world.
Building hype works
I read an article early on Prime Day that explained how Jeff Bezos keeps checking items off of his bucket list, the latest being creation of an annual holiday. Prime Day got coverage on virtually all major media outlets, and people were paying attention. The server problems stemmed from a massive Prime Day success. Millions of customers beating down your virtual doors to get in is a good problem to have.
While the sales take place during a one day period, the process of promoting Prime Day happens year round. We can all be certain that on Prime Day, Amazon leaders were in a war room meeting making sure it all ran smoothly. But ahead of the big day, they spent countless hours preparing ahead of time. If you prepare right, market right, and build up customer demand, you will have a much bigger success on your big launch day.
Upsells work best on your most loyal customers
Turning a good customer into a great customer is a time-tested strategy. While you can’t turn every existing customer into a repeat customer, when you can bring customers back, again and again, you have more significant opportunities to sell a broader range of products and services. With Amazon Prime, Amazon knows just who to target.
You may be able to build similar membership, frequent customer, or repeat customer rewards into your business model. While we are not all large retail stores, we can often apply some of the same strategies in other sales experiences.
Cross promote. Cross promote. Cross promote.
Upselling and cross-promotion go hand in hand, and Amazon is expert at both. Every time you open a Prime Day deal, you’re greeted with similar products, alternate products, sponsored products, and products based on your browsing history. Amazon puts virtually every square inch of real estate to good use selling other services shoppers may want.
And when you check out more exciting products based on your recent purchase history, or related products you may want after this purchase. If you have ever shopped at Amazon, you get the point.
Offer something people really get excited about
Prime Day only works because Amazon offers products people want in an exciting way. Discount Instant Pots, low priced AmazonBasics kitchen wear, and home automation tools were just a small selection of Prime Day’s biggest sales. But if you do a quick Google search, you may find that people love products in those categories. By selling what people love at a low price, Amazon can build year-round brand loyalty.
You might see this in your grocery store every time you buy milk or bread. Some products sell on a very low margin, or even a small loss, to bring you in to buy other products. When you offer something people get excited about and upsell and cross promote well, you have a formula for big-time success.
Find your inner Bezos
Jeff Bezos turned a little garage-based business into one that propelled him to the wealthiest person on earth. If you can capture just a sliver of his success, you too can build a business that earns big sales. You might not make as many billions as Bezos, but if you can even get 1% of his success, you won’t have anything to complain about.