What could be more important to stakeholders than understanding the nature of a company’s business? Yet many reporters miss the opportunity to provide this basic information. That’s changing, though, as sustainability and CR reports are used more often to provide greater clarity on a company’s business model (how it makes money) and on its value chain (key direct and indirect activities that support the business model).
This is happening in tandem with increased integrated reporting and additional focus on corporate purpose. In fact, the International Integrated Reporting Council’s guidance (IIRC) requires that companies illustrate the business model. Whether they use the IIRC framework or not, more and more companies are creating visual representations of their business, which can also help to make their reporting more visually engaging.
Showing the value chain can be straightforward, as our client Novelis did:
Campbell Soup Company’s simple wheel graphic is also straightforward, but includes examples of material issues, activities and initiatives related to each step of the value chain.
At the other end of the spectrum, Fibria, a Brazilian pulp company, uses the IIRC’s approach to reporting on value creation by clarifying the business model and showing how the business increases or decreases stocks of financial and non-financial capital. Fibria offers multiple business model infographics for a range of audiences, putting the visual of how the company creates value front and center for key audiences.
To determine which approach makes the most sense for your company, consider the following questions:
+ Who is the primary audience? Is it investors, suppliers, customers or some combination?
+ Which framework are we following (IIRC, GRI, etc.)? This is a great place to start, since frameworks offer advice on what to include in visual depictions of value chains.
+ Are there stakeholder misconceptions about our value chain that we have an opportunity to clarify or correct through a value chain graphic?
+ What are the highest priority areas to share? Be sure to include the most important steps of the value chain—if your chosen audiences would be overwhelmed by seeing detail like Fibria’s, consider a mostly visual representation.
No matter how you approach sharing your value chain, it’s an important step at a time when reporting about activities outside a company’s core operations is all but expected.