“Better than last year’s report.” That was what the adidas director of social and environmental affairs would say every year when I asked him what the brief was for that year’s sustainability report. It was wonderful to hear that from a client and I try and bring that same ambition to all the reports we work on––including our own. Today we publish Junxion’s 2019 Impact Report––our second––and I’m happy to say that it is better than our first.
How do we know? Because reporting your impact forces you to reflect on why you do what you do, which activities you undertake and how you know you are making a difference. And then applying those lessons to the next report. Here are the five changes we made this year.
Listen and respond to feedback
As I’m fond of saying: transparency is an invitation to collaborate. We launched our first report at the Social Venture Circle conference in New York, where we ran a workshop on impact reporting and invited the gathering of social entrepreneurs and impact investors in the room to give us some honest feedback on our first effort.
They said they wanted to know more about the people who worked at Junxion and they pressed us to explore what was special about our consulting offer.
These were both great pieces of feedback: it is certainly our intent to run our business in a way that supports and nourishes our employees and we had not talked about that at all in our first report. And we were well aware that while it is impossible to quantify all of the impact of our clients’ work, we could get closer.
Find a structure that works for you
Select a framework that suits your organization.
When considering the feedback in the context of the year we’ve had, we saw that we could expand on 2018 report’s focus on our clients and communities with sections on our governance, employees and the environment. These are the five pillars of the Certified B Corporation’s B Impact Assessment model, for which we advocate and through which we’ve supported more than 40 clients. So it’s a good framework for us.
You can structure reports by key topics or issues you seek to address in your work, or you can focus it around a theme—perhaps something structural like labour practices, or something strategic like innovation. The point is to choose a framework that makes sense for your organization.
Express the difference you make
An impact report is––self-evidently––about impact. And it is instructive to recall the word’s meaning as ‘positive change that otherwise would not have occurred.’ The impact of our strategic planning, branding and communications, and impact measurement and reporting services is not always easy to quantify. But having been challenged to provide more detail on the difference we made compared with other consultancies, we issued a client questionnaire asking our clients ‘what did we do that you were not expecting from a consultancy?’
We learned that we are additive because of our understanding of social business, the rich experiential approach that we provide and that we catalyse courageous action in our clients.
Better understanding our impact not only allows us to prove the difference we make, it helps us to focus and improve our services for future clients, supporting the long-term health of their organizations.
Make it personal
Engage readers with real stories of real people.
It’s one thing to say that we aim to be a supportive employer and it’s another to have a colleague say that they have had that experience. Our senior consultant Garth Yule wrote a blogpost during the year that we summarized in the report. He told a moving story of confronting personal and family health issues––as well as having to move across Canada at short notice. But together we turned these challenges into opportunities, giving him time and space, and then having him open a new office for Junxion in the Toronto area.
Stories about real people’s lives are so much more engaging than saying you care for everyone’s wellbeing.
Find on-brand stories
In 2019 we joined many other businesses in declaring a climate emergency and have made a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2020. We also spent three days together in our second annual retreat reflecting on how we should represent the climate crisis in our work. We settled on language that balances our sense of responsibility to meet clients where they are while simultaneously demanding they commit to bold action. From there emerged our new positioning: Let’s Be Audacious Together….
Be courageous about your convictions.
Around this time, we were invited to tender for a significant––potentially game-changing––piece of work for one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world. They wanted us to help them improve the effectiveness of their corporate community investment programmes. Having realized that our remit would not influence their core activities at all, we examined their carbon commitments. They had a 15-year target to make such a small reduction in relative carbon emissions (i.e., per unit of production) that in absolute terms they were planning to emit more carbon in 2025 than they had done in 2010! We told them that given their carbon-intensive industry and their size, this was a deficient response to what the world needs and that as such, we would not be taking the discussions about working together any further.
This was a ‘moment’ for Junxion. We could have pursued the commission, but instead we chose to be true to our commitments and values. We believe that this consistency evidences the depth of our commitments to doing business differently, and that it will create more value over time than that one project with a petrochemical giant. Can you find stories that similarly speak to your values as a business?
Pulling on the red thread
In reporting you learn about yourselves––both strengths and weaknesses. There are many areas where we acknowledge we need to improve: creating guidelines on who we will and won’t work for, establishing the roadmap to reach carbon neutrality, and taking concrete action on diversity and inclusion. Impact reporting is about identifying areas to improve as well as describing how we make a positive difference in the world.
This year we have settled on our new positioning, committed to showing up in the climate crisis and have demonstrated that we will back those fine words with actions. We don’t just close our offices for climate strikes, but we also turn down work if need be. At Junxion, we are not perfect, but we are living our values and making a difference. And we’re able to prove it. That’s what a good impact report should do.
Let’s Be Audacious Together….
Adam Garfunkel is a longtime advocate of corporate transparency, has written a best practice guide to impact reporting and enjoys helping businesses of all sizes walk the talk. Reach him at [email protected]