Crafting sustainable Annual Reports for 2023

Given we’re all doing our bit for the planet, should you still be printing your Annual Report in 2023? The short answer is no. While we’re mostly glued to our phones, the chances are your investors will finger flick your report quicker than a trip on the Waterloo and City line. Even more reason to ensure your facts and figures are presented at their best, and digestible at speed.

The big BUT of course is that the Annual Report is your most important document. Your chance every year to present your highs (and lows) with engaging narrative, telling your story and delivering the numbers. Whilst a beautifully presented PDF of crafted charts and pies will suffice for some, many prefer to take a pew, get comfortable and read about their investment with a pot of coffee and the Sunday papers.

So for those who do like to thumb your numbers with a good old hard copy, the great benefit of digital printing (as opposed to the lithographic form) avoids the need to print vast quantities, whilst retaining quality at reduced cost. To produce your most sustainable report yet, we have several tips to help save those precious resources; reduce energy, tree-felling, water and waste.

Avoid full-page coloured images where possible. A great Annual Report has the perfect blend of information, data, graphics and photography. The more ink on the page; the more energy-intensive the recycling process as paper needs to be de-inked. Striking the right balance with careful consideration keeps ink usage to a minimum without compromising the design.

Be sure to choose your ink wisely (and check with your printer). Instead of using harmful petroleum-based inks which contain ~35% volatile organic compounds, opt for plant or vegetable-based inks which contain 0-5% VOCs.

Choose paper sourced and manufactured using renewable energy, made from non-wood sources. Use uncoated stock where possible and processed chlorine free, ideally 100% post-consumer waste. Recycled fibre is best (30% as a bare minimum).

Proofread on screen. Every little helps – this simple tip keeps waste down.

Finally, choose a printer who is certified sustainable, eco-friendly and carbon offsets. We go local to keep mileage and emissions as low as possible.

Going green is one thing. We’ve had a quick chat with our founding partner, Jonathan Baker, who has been crafting Annual Reports for decades.

What makes an Annual Report your competitors will envy?

JB: You need to leave a lasting impression with your investors. It should showcase your company’s unique value proposition and highlight what sets you apart from your peers. By delivering a report that is both informative and engaging, you can position your company as a leader in your industry and build trust with your stakeholders.

Some might say investors just want to know the numbers, stuff the pretty pictures. What’s your take on that?

JB: Well, it’s true that the numbers are essential, but a great Annual Report is much more than that. It’s an opportunity to tell your company’s story, showcase your achievements and communicate your vision for the future. The structure, design and presentation play a crucial role in making your report stand out and engage your audience. A visually appealing and well-crafted report will leave a lasting impression and enhance differentiation within your market.

Can you share your secrets for a well-structured report?

JB: Whilst I have worked on very many Annual Reports over the years, each brings unique requirements and nuances, requiring careful consideration of its specific goals and audience. Hierarchy and clear signposting help readers navigate often lengthy sections, ensuring they can find specific information with ease.

What are the common mistakes companies make when creating their Annual Reports?

JB: One of the most common mistakes is trying to cram too much information onto the page. You have to make it easy to digest. Another mistake is not paying enough attention to the information flow. A poorly designed report not only looks clumsy, it can be challenging to read and may fail to communicate your message effectively. Lastly, the devil is in the detail. Not proofreading meticulously can lead to embarrassing errors that undermine your credibility.

How do you see the future of Annual Reports?

JB: I believe there will always be a place for printed reports, especially for those investors who prefer a tangible copy. Regardless of the format, there is a timeless quality to an Annual Report and the presentation of which speaks volumes about your company. Of course, sustainability will remain a key concern, and companies will continue to strive to reduce their environmental footprint. Striking the right balance from the printed page to the mobile device is a challenge we embrace.

If you’re looking for help designing your next Annual Report, we would love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to learn more about and how we can help you produce a report that lands with impact.