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Impact Report Professionals Rendezvous to Kick Off Impact Reporting Season

Alisa, Russ, and Polina at the beginning of their LinkedIn Live webinar.

Wowza! We recently held our first LinkedIn Live event, and it was, well – lively!

The event, titled “Learn How to Create Impact Reports from Industry Professionals,” brought together more than 60 impact professionals with a mix of founders, business strategists, and executive directors of Certified B Corporations, public benefit corporations, nonprofits, and socially responsible small businesses in attendance.

All were keen to rendezvous and discuss best practices and trends in the business of creating and reporting social and environmental impact.

Quick note: If you’re a reader, you can forge ahead for highlights from the conversation – or if you’d rather watch or listen, you can check out a recording of the complete event.

“We really didn’t know what to expect as it was our first LinkedIn Live. We were honestly blown away by the interest in the event, the passion of the attendees, and the number and diversity of thoughtful questions that were put forth,” said our CEO and co-founder, Polina Pinchevsky.

We kicked off the presentation with an insight from Tamara Bergkamp, a sustainability consultant and former senior manager for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Tamara does a great job of succinctly positioning impact reporting as what it truly is: a strategic business imperative. “People starting this journey should be aware that the reporting process is much more than preparing information for readers, it is a key source for sustainable business management: Identifying, measuring, and defining goals and actions taken,” she said.

We then jumped into a conversation that covered best practices, with specific advice to help businesses get the most from their impact reports:

  • Don’t try to tell everything — people’s attention spans are limited, so don’t overwhelm them with too much information; give them the highlights with a way to learn more if they’d like.
  • Don’t forget your suppliers — don’t just look downstream at the impact you’ve created; consider the upstream impact you’ve created by strategically working with aligned suppliers.
  • It’s never too early to start — you might only be measuring two or three impact areas on a regular basis, but that’s a good prompt to start reporting and improve your future performance. And don’t forget — many businesses don’t measure or report any impact!
  • Transparency is rewarded — be sure to report the good with the bad; your transparency will be rewarded with the trust of stakeholders who will value your honesty.
  • Repurpose content — your impact report is a significant investment of time and resources. It’s a tremendous content resource and you should make the most of it throughout the year by slicing and dicing it into assets you can use in your marketing and advocacy.
  • Public Benefit Corporations — You know who you are! 😉💪 Depending upon your state of incorporation, this legal framework has its own regulatory requirements for impact reporting. Don’t forget to include them in your annual impact report. (Unit of Impact also provides a state-by-state database for benefit corporation reporting requirements.)

We segued to outline an eight-point framework to help social entrepreneurs create a content outline for their impact reports.

  1. Brand foundation — your purpose, values, and the impact you seek to create.
  2. Products and Services — don’t forget to include as their revenues drive your ability to create impact
  3. Stakeholder Letter — a way for your leader(s) to personalize your impact for all stakeholders, including successes, areas for improvement, and goals for the future
  4. Impact Reporting — provide proof of your impact — by the numbers
  5. Storytelling — Projects that give a narrative accounting of your impact with a human face
  6. Certifications — independent street cred of your business model, from B Corp to Fair Trade
  7. Testimonials — highlight and acknowledge stakeholders who can testify to your positive impact
  8. Engagement — don’t forget to provide onramps for people to follow your company and its work all year long: newsletter signups, social media, etc.

“I was inspired as I was learning more about how others define “impact” as we dig in and build our Rise Impact Program and learn to better communicate the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the work we are directly and indirectly involved with as we advance Truth and Reconciliation across Turtle Island,” said event attendee Annie Korver, founder and principal, Rise Consulting Ltd., a certified B Corp and Indigenous-owned national management consultancy supporting Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

In addition to covering impact reporting best practices and advice, we also gave a brief demo of our SaaS platform, highlighting the ways it provides small businesses with a system to efficiently organize and centralize their impact data; a dashboard for measuring performance and improvement over time; and an impact-report generator that gives entrepreneurs an efficient and economical way to create a professionally designed impact report. To illustrate this, we showcased the first impact report created on our platform by B Corp Rivanna Natural Designs.

“In a world where we have a ways to go when it comes to standardizations across impact reporting and ESG sustainability reporting, the Unit of Impact tool seemed very easy to use and it leverages a clear and simple framework,” said event attendee Shilpa Gadhok, founder and CEO, See Good Strategy Group. “I believe this tool will be a game changer for companies and organizations who are resource-constrained or are looking for assistance on where or how to begin the process on reporting their progress.”