It’s that season, people. Impact report season, that is.

Increasingly, companies are producing impact reports to detail the positive environmental and social actions they are achieving that benefit our world. This marks an evolution from sustainability reports, which were more focused on environmental programs and processes. Impact reports share a more holistic view of businesses and their role in the world – still inclusive of environmental impacts and widening the aperture to shine a light on an organization’s work with stakeholders including communities, customers, workers, and suppliers.

Back to the season – public benefit corporations are generally required by law to publish their impact reports, aka “annual benefit reports,” no later than 120 days after the end of their fiscal year, which for most typically is the calendar year. Other companies producing impact reports often release them in the quarter following their fiscal year-end.

So for most, this means they make their impact reports public by April 30th. We decided to spend some time looking at the new crop of impact reports and have selected a few that piqued our interest. We tried to include a diverse set of industries, and some are from larger, consumer products companies while others are decidedly small businesses that are local or regional. 

So buckle in and prepare for impact – here we go:

Bold Impact & Vibrant Presentation

The cover of the TOMS impact report. Illustration of diverse people around the TOMS logo.
The cover of the TOMS impact report

TOMS

TOMS is an OG/B1G1 – an original gangster in helping define and catapult the social purpose business model of buyone, give one. It started by donating shoes and has since evolved this model to dedicating one-third of its profits to grassroots initiatives. Access the TOMS impact report here.

What we like:

Wow. Here’s a company that makes a big impact and knows how to communicate it. The report starts with a positive bang (impact) through an amazing anchoring illustration image, with illustration carried beautifully throughout the report. The design and bright color palette befits a successful consumer products company, with impacts communicated in crisp and concise statements. We liked the focus on partners, and we loved that TOMS uses this pulpit as a promotional showcase highlighting partner stories. We found its stat of improving its B Corp environmental score 2X in two years to be especially notable.

Room for Improvement:

Most of the report was focused on the external impact of TOMS throughout the world. We’d like to have learned more about its impact in its own workplace.

Simple & Transparent

5 people standing facing a wall. The back of their shirts spells out 1525.
The 1525 team from their impact report

1525, Inc.

Small businesses, represent! 1525 is a woman-owned, public benefit corporation in Oregon. It provides promotional products to clients across the United States. And why the name? Well, founders Karin and Bill Conrad wore jersey numbers 15 and 25 in college when they first met. While they’re working on their 2020 report, we liked their small business example so much we included their current report (2019). Access the 1525 impact report here.

What we like:

Easy on the eyes design and the team photo conveys character and personality. Plus, it’s concise – especially relevant given the many demands on a small business to produce an impact report, plus a service to the reader as well. The big “get” for us was the inclusion of profit goals – profit goals, now how’s that for transparency? – as a true differentiator in the land of impact reports!

Room for improvement:

Quantifying impact – the report had great qualitative data, but could be strengthened by more measurement and communication around it. A tough challenge, for sure, as small businesses are time strapped.

Comprehensive & Traditional

IndieDwell Logo.

indieDwell

indieDwell upcycles used shipping containers to create affordable, high-performance modular housing using construction methods and materials that are sustainable, energy-efficient, and healthy. Access the indieDwell impact report here.

What we like:

Super comprehensive – a ton of data and information about the company’s impact in 2020, from culture to its program for carbon neutrality. We especially liked the inclusion of eNPS scores (a measure of employee satisfaction) for the company’s workforce, a section on DEI, and its impact mapping to the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

Room for improvement:

A dollop (or two) of design would help this report to better communicate the impressive impact data and would better align from a branding standpoint with its stylish and mod housing products.

Data-Driven & People Oriented 

The cover of the Coastal Credit Union impact report

Coastal Credit Union

We love credit unions and their member-driven purpose. Coastal is a credit union in North Carolina that’s doing an exceptional job with its impact – its measurement of institutional impact is a special highlight. While they’re still working on their 2020 report – we thought their prior year’s version warranted inclusion in this roundup. Access the Coastal Credit Union impact report here.

What we like:

Proof! That’s what we like here as demonstrated by the strong measurement system Coastal has in place, which allow it to say in an understated way that here’s a committed company that’s making a big impact on its stakeholders. We liked the emphasis it gave to employees, and we loved the spotlight recognition on individual employees. All in all this tells a stellar story of community involvement. The member giveback is especially noteworthy.

Room for Improvement:

It felt like we got hit with the green hammer! And while green is obviously Coastal’s primary brand color (and one not uncommon to the credit union universe), a broadening of the color palette would be appreciated. Also: Large blocks of small copy were challenging for readability.

Story-Driven & Gender Strong

The cover of the Saalt impact report

Saalt

Saalt offers period care products from reusable menstruation cups to underwear. It’s on a mission to normalize menstruation, to reduce waste, and to use its business model to support education for young women in developing nations around the world.  Access Saalt’s impact report here.

What we like:

The opening animation on the web landing page is a simple but eye-popping treatment of Saalt’s increasing global impact across a number of metrics. The report does a good job of communicating the company’s generous and comprehensive impact – from gender equity to environment to social justice. It uses fantastic imagery and storytelling to focus on partner NGOs around the world. Case in point: We loved the story of its support for female wildland and forest firefighters around the world, donating 10% of website profits to organizations in the space and equipping female firefighters with much-needed menstruation cups.

Room for Improvement:

The gateway from cool animation on the landing page to actual impact report felt out of synch stylistically, and the page-turning mechanism for the report felt dated. The layout of the report was fairly standard as well.

Strong Messaging & Value-Added Disclosure

A young black girl hanging from a rock climbing harness. She's smiling up at the camera.
A young refugee participates in an IRC- and Cotopaxi-sponsored rock-climbing educational event. Photo by James Roh.

Cotopaxi

Top of the scrap heap here, as Cotopaxi’s report is about as good as it gets – this B Corp’s business model has it literally taking scraps of unused fabric and repurposing them into high-quality outdoor gear, while using the proceeds of their enterprise to tackle poverty and lift up those who have been relegated to society’s scrap heap. Access the Cotopaxi impact report here.

What we like:

In the world of impact, too often companies adhere to the adage of “Show me the money,” with a premium applied to donations, when they should be exhorting, “Show me the numbers.” If you want to drill down on data and do it in a fluid process that’s actually engaging, this is the impact report for you. Strong messaging, and value-added disclosure via comprehensive metrics throughout! It goes far beyond the significant dollars donated (Show me the money!), though financial measures are included as well – just not the main show. We particularly liked the emphasis on outcomes and its accounting of the number of people aided through its poverty alleviation initiatives (directly, 882,000; indirectly, 3.2 million). Extra points for the listing of material topics and risk assessments, which harken to the footnotes of a public company annual report, but are something you rarely see in an impact report.

Room for improvement:

While the report was crisp and clean – much appreciated was the leading between lines for easy readability – we’d have expected more of design and layout from a consumer products company, particularly its treatment of photos. That said, we’re stretching to find room for improvements here.

The Best in Impact Reporting

Admittedly, this is a small sample of impact reports (and doesn’t include a couple of cool candidates we saw too late for publication). We’re happy to continue shining a light on the companies that are doing good for people and the planet – so if you have examples of impact reports you love, please keep us posted by emailing us at hello@impactco.io. We’re developing a directory of them and will share them with our broader community either in upcoming blogs or on our social media channels.

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