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The State of Impact Reporting 2023

Diverse range of upraised hands.

When we first considered the crazy idea of creating the Unit of Impact in the heart of the pandemic, we decided to do some research to see if there was appetite in the marketplace for a software platform to help small businesses measure and report their impact.

That was summer of 2020. That research strongly indicated there was a gap in the marketplace for a software solution of the kind we envisioned for small businesses, so we plunged into building it.

This year, we decided it was time to reprise that initial survey, with a few tweaks, to get a better grasp on the current state of impact reporting.

Who Cares About Impact Reporting?

Turns out, lots of people care about impact reporting, as 545 respondents participated. All were based in North America from 41 states and four provinces. Of those surveyed, 71% said their organizations have produced an annual impact report.

Company founders/executives comprised 50% of survey respondents, with employees next at 28%.  Board members, investors, students, and others made up the rest. As for company size, 66% had from 11 – 200 employees, and 79% of the companies registered $15 million or less in annual sales.

Seventy-seven percent of the respondents reported working for mission-driven organizations, which were identified as being Certified B Corps, public benefit corporations, co-ops, or socially responsible businesses. Traditional businesses accounted for 19% of respondents and nonprofits at 4% rounded it out the “Who” of this research

Key Finding #1: 

Worker satisfaction ranks as most important.

Asked to rank the most important facet of social responsibility, respondents cited worker satisfaction most frequently, followed by DEI, community enrichment and involvement, environmental sustainability, and corporate giving.

Companies were busy measuring all sorts of impact; the top three impacts being tracked in the survey were energy use, carbon emissions, and recycling, followed by water use, volunteer hours and waste stream (tie), and donations. 

Key Finding #2: 

Sustainability pros increasingly use software to track impact.

Sustainability departments were most often cited for having responsibility for impact reporting and communication by 31% of respondents, followed by marketing department (28%), executive team (26%), HR (13%), and other (2%).

Among tools for tracking and measuring impact, most professionals (64%) cited task-specific software, such as carbon accounting and donation/volunteer tracking. Nineteen percent used spreadsheets, and 17% used the B Impact Assessment. 

Key Finding #3: 

How are companies using their impact reports?

Companies are making their impact reporting efforts work hard. The number one use for impact reports was employee training, followed by employee recruitment and board and investor communications. Strategic planning, employee on-boarding, and sales and marketing were cited as other uses. 

Key Finding #4: 

Can you magically create more time for me?

The challenge most often cited for companies producing impact reports was budget restraints. Data analysis and collection was the second-leading challenge, followed by the planning process.

For those not producing impact reports, time constraints were cited as the number one reason, followed by people resources and budget restraints. 

Key Finding #5: 

Impact reporting is alive and well!

While a challenging economic environment and increasingly stretched resources provide challenges for measuring and reporting impact, a significant majority of companies surveyed are prioritizing and publishing their impact reports, with many finding that technology is helping them to solve some of the challenges.