Case study: Writing an ESG Report for VTTI

Case study: Writing an ESG Report for VTTI

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ESG has dominated the corporate conversation over the last couple of years, exerting an increasingly influence over any forward-looking business strategy.

As scrutiny over greenwashing intensifies, it’s no longer enough to look on the subject as another box (or three) to be ticked, or a trend to inspire bold words but feeble actions.

ESG has to be real. It has to become embedded into internal processes and the wider supply chain. In short, it has to change business for the better.

Energy storage leader VTTI asked me to help them write their first ever ESG report, reporting directly into the Global Head of Sustainability. They wanted to communicate their view of ESG as an integrated, overarching commitment to constant improvement that runs throughout every aspect of the organisation. What struck me immediately was the passion for the whole subject. From the first interview, I was struck by the desire to do the right thing for the right reasons and not just for the sake of appearances. And that desire was shared by everyone I spoke to. It was quite infectious actually and made the whole job truly meaningful.

VTTI is rightly proud of what they’ve started to achieve and of the fact they are actually taking concrete actions.

ESG is helping them to define a new vision for the future that will fundamentally transform what they do and how they do it.

At the same time, they wanted to be honest: the company is just getting started and they know they have a long way to go. So, we wanted to develop a tone of voice that reflected this: straightforward, direct, and not afraid to admit that ESG is a work in progress.

This ESG report was divided into 5 sections and was quite a chunk of work.

I was provided with a few interviews and transcripts to get started. I interviewed a range of senior stakeholders to generate additional content for the remaining sections. The final piece of the jigsaw was a variety of existing corporate communications form which I could cherry-pick and adapt content.

My job was to then bring all this information together in a consistent and engaging way.

They also looked to me to suggest ways of adding interest and making it as readable as possible – because they do want it to be read. This is a company with a huge range of stakeholders ranging from big investors to a global workforce to the local communities in which they work. They want – they need – to be seen to be doing the right thing.

This kind of project can spiral out of control pretty quickly. Everyone wants a say on the final text, everyone wants their specific input to be included etc. etc. We kept a tight lid on things to stay in control from the start. I uploaded the first draft of each chapter for feedback from the core team. Once that was implemented, it went out to the relevant stakeholders for that area of the business. Then once their feedback was worked in, it went off to design.

The report now lives online and is for internal purposes only. But this is only the first step, and going forwards the plan is to make future reports available to the general public.