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Start Now: The Benefits of Annual Impact Reporting from the Beginning
February 10, 2016
There aren’t many businesses that dedicate a fifth of their team to measuring impact. Luckily at Thread, we recognized early on that if we were going to produce the most responsible fabric in the world with a completely traceable and transparent supply chain, in an industry that is notoriously opaque and dangerous, we would need the data to back it up.
Thread was operating for approximately 18 months when I proposed an annual impact report. I was still new in my role of Impact, having pivoted from being Director of Community Development — a title we put on a form once and that ended up sticking as we transitioned from a founding team with an idea to functioning company with roles (I believe there were also a few months where I insisted on being called the High-Priestess of Talking Trash. Ah, startups). Rather than release separate financial and CSR reports, the idea was to create one report to comprehensively account for our social impact, environmental/sustainability progress, and financial performance. One report to rule them all.
Our first Impact Report was quaint. It was inspired by big-league brands such as Timberland, and Nike, and Lego, which publish beautiful reports detailing their environmental and sustainability goals and progress. We had limited content for our first year’s report, but we worked with what we had. Starting early was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Holding ourselves to annual impact reporting has forced me to focus and organize our measurement and goals in a way that is effective and informative. I’m not sure our approach would be as streamlined or strategically aligned without having one place to report all of this information. Starting early has made the growth and improvement of our measuring and reporting much easier. I know the audience here understands the importance behind impact reporting, but I want to emphasize that it’s never too early to start.
This week, Thread released our 2015 Impact Report. This marks the third year we’ve published such a document and the difference between 2013 and 2015 is striking. Not only has our company grown — expanding to another country, adding multiple collection networks and supply sources, and increasing our fabric library to include more than 25 high-quality, beautiful fabrics — our impact data has grown as well.
The numbers and statistics represented in this report are based in fact and backed up with data. It’s easy to dismiss this kind of reporting as a marketing ploy or feel-good fluff, but Thread’s impact reports give insight into the way we run our business and measure our success. Our team believes strongly that what you measure is what matters. This year, we have more accurate numbers behind our metrics. We are moving beyond base-line measurement into setting feasible goals around reduction. We have historical data! Soon we’ll be able to recognize real trends.
Securing Company-wide Buy-in
Annual reporting has led to internal monthly updates, in addition to quarterly meetings, where our entire company sits down to review financial, social, and environmental progress. Impact goals are tied to financial goals, production, and sales targets, which ensures buy-in across the entire organization. We are a triple-bottom-line company in the truest sense, and our Impact Report reflects that.
Thread’s Impact Report has grown into a powerful marketing and sales tool. It is the product of an amazing working relationship between myself and our Director of Marketing, providing a foundation for the work we collaborate on throughout the year. I am proud of this year’s report, but even prouder to work with a team who holds themselves to a level of excellence — not just in the financial performance of our business, but in the role we play with the people and places responsible for our success. Already, I cannot wait for 2016’s report.