Eco-friendly features give annual reports added appeal

These days, it's common for annual reports to have design elements that make them aesthetically appealing and easier to read. But just as important are features that showcase the eco-friendliness of the company.

These days, it's common for annual reports to have design elements that make them aesthetically appealing and easier to read. But just as important are features that showcase the eco-friendliness of the company.

The report for RPM, an international holding company that specializes in coatings, sealants, and other chemicals, looks like a magazine, complete with a Letters to the Editor page. The fold-out cover also touts the green qualities of its products and of the report itself. The booklet is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a global nonprofit concerned with good forestry practices. In addition, the paper is made with up to 30% recycled material.

"[RPM] had a lot of things going on this year, and it felt like it lent itself to a magazine," says James Roop, president of Roop & Co., which helped RPM with its report. "By switching to this format, it's four pages longer due to financial reporting requirements, but using recycled material saves money."

Along with recycled paper, soy-based ink and modern printers can make the annual report process eco-friendly. This is especially important because the printed report isn't going away, despite increased use of the Internet.

"There are people who are moving toward using the Internet more in an effort to save on paper and printing," says Scott Greenberg, president of Curran & Connors. "While there clearly is a trend, the vast majority are still using a print annual report."

Online reports are offering further enhancements, like video, that can help a company's annual report stand out and further the brand. Still, many people prefer the printed word. As such, photos, illustrations, graphs, and charts are prominent design options.

"The key enhancement that a lot of companies consider is more visually dynamic pictures," says Graham Schelter, director of business development for Weymouth Design. "[The] annual report as a Web version [is] a companion to the printed piece. We think the future for online reports is going to be rapid."

Key points:

Design elements can further a company's brand and highlight its green efforts

Certification from a nonprofit is an important step toward showing that your annual report is eco-friendly

Online reports can complement print versions with branding elements like video

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