6 things to consider when choosing an ESG reporting tool

Published on 
October 28, 2021
Best practices

If you’ve been following recent developments in disclosure legislation, you’ve probably noticed a shift in how the world is approaching sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Disclosure frameworks are becoming increasingly standardized, and governments, investors and even consumers expect companies to be more transparent about their ESG performance.

One of the best ways for a company to meet all of these expectations is to issue an ESG report. But after painstakingly putting together your first report the hard way, you might come to the same conclusion as many other businesses: ESG reporting would be a whole lot easier with a tool that streamlines and centralizes every step.

Why trade in your spreadsheets for a dedicated ESG solution?

The business world may run on coffee, emails and spreadsheets, but when you’re orchestrating a project with dozens of collaborators in hundreds of locations, nothing beats a specialized tool. More specifically, ESG reporting software can help you:

  • Gather data from multiple sources into a single tool and track your team’s progress so you can meet your reporting and disclosure deadlines
  • Automate tasks like follow-ups and calculations, so you can work faster and more efficiently for less
  • Process and analyze your raw data to help you see how you measure up to standardized frameworks or in-house sustainability goals and decide what to work on next
  • Make sure your data is accurate, verified and secure, so that rating agencies, auditors and other organizations can make more reliable assessments
  • Let your stakeholders (like investors, employees, consumers and rating agencies) know how you’re performing and get them more engaged

Know your needs

To choose the best tool for your business, you’ll want to consider:

  • What you hope to achieve with it and in what timeframe
  • Who’ll be managing and using it
  • Which industry-specific metrics you’ll be tracking
  • Who your report audiences are and what they need to know
  • Which frameworks you’ll be disclosing to, if any
  • What your budget is

Use this handy checklist

So how do you pick from all the sustainability tools out there? Here are six questions you should ask yourself to make sure you’re choosing the right ESG reporting software for your business:

1. Can the solution help you work more efficiently?

One of the main reasons companies start using ESG reporting software is to eliminate manual work, save time and cut down on costs. Try to pick a tool that can:

  • Support your entire reporting cycle, from data collection and analytics to report generation and stakeholder communications, so that you don’t need to license several kinds of software or spend money redesigning reports every year
  • Make your processes more efficient by eliminating complex, unproductive and tedious steps
  • Let you input data both manually and automatically, from multiple sources
  • Give you a way to verify the raw data input by your team, so you can generate reliable performance indicators

2. Can it track all the metrics your organization needs?

When sustainability is embedded throughout your organization, tracking your non-financial performance can become rather complex. Whether you’re measuring health and safety incidents or scope one, two and three greenhouse gas emissions, your ESG software should be powerful enough to:

  • Collect data at a very granular level, support custom, advanced calculations and process large amounts of data
  • Convert raw field data from multiple sources into metrics with common units of measurement
  • Differentiate between raw and verified data and detect unusual variations
  • Crunch all your numbers to give you meaningful performance indicators that you can act on
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a person viewing charts on a laptop computer

3. Can it support all of your collaborators?

Sustainability professionals often have to collaborate with a host of other departments with very different needs. For instance, whereas your marketing and communications teams might want to share sustainability initiatives to set your company apart, your human resources department might want a quarterly diversity and wellness report, and your plant or store managers might need a snapshot of their environmental KPIs to make sure they’re on target. All of these teams will also need a way to send you their data so that it can be aggregated into a single database.

To be useful across your entire company, an ESG reporting solution should:

  • Live on the cloud, so that it can be securely accessed by all of your users, from anywhere in the world
  • Have a user-friendly interface and be easy to integrate across all your teams
  • Give your internal and external collaborators a simple way to feed data and supporting documents into your system, so you can spend less time chasing down and inputting information
  • Give you both a holistic view and a granular view of your company’s ESG challenges and opportunities, for example through a combination of visual dashboards and interactive reports

4. Can it help you meet all of your sustainability-related objectives?

The piece of ESG reporting software that’ll work best for your business in the long term is the one that not only aligns with your current priorities but can also support your future needs. Ideally, it should be versatile enough to help you:

  • Improve your ESG performance and optimize your operations by giving you clear, actionable insights into the trends behind your data
  • Share information and be more transparent by creating communications opportunities  with all of your stakeholders, including your investors, customers, institutional partners, management and field staff (e.g. an interactive website will be easier to digest for consumers and investors than a static PDF report)
  • Comply with disclosure requirements and legislation by tracking not only your own custom metrics but also the standard metrics that matter to key sustainability institutions
  • Provide auditors and rating agencies with the information they need in an easily searchable format so that they can breeze through their verifications

5. Can the solution evolve with your needs?

Some solutions come with a pre-defined list of metrics you can track and very limited features. If you plan on expanding on your sustainability initiatives as your company’s materiality changes, your ressources grow and the market changes, cookie-cutter software just won’t cut it. Instead, opt for a flexible piece of software that can be:

  • Implemented based on your organization's custom needs and specifications 
  • Updated several times a year to bring you the best features, like automated data collection workflows and highly customizable graphs
  • Built on to match changes in external frameworks and laws

6. What kind of support do you expect from your software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider?

When comparing software, features aren’t the only thing you should look at. Make sure to consider the kind of service you’ll receive. A great sustainability software provider should:

  • Give you a clear timeline to implement your new ESG reporting software
  • Schedule regular follow-ups with you to make sure your setup is on track
  • Provide your team with training to make sure you’re comfortable using your software
  • Be responsive to your feedback and available when you have questions
  • React quickly to fix any issues or downtime (which should be rare)
  • Keep you in the loop as new features are released
  • Incorporate sustainability into their core values

Sound like a tall order for a single tool? Check out this all-in-one ESG reporting solution that does it all. The more you can streamline and centralize your data collection, analysis and reporting, the better insights you’ll gain into your performance—and the more you’ll be able to effect real change within your organization.

See our ESG reporting tools in action.