The latest example comes from Portland, Oregon-based green coffee trading company Sustainable Harvest, which has released a 2017 corporate impact report that, at a casual glance, might be confused for a DC or Marvel creation. But it didn’t start that way.
Sustainable Harvest President Liam Brody told DCN via email that an initial draft of the report covering 60 pages followed the structure of reports of years past, providing yearly comparisons and loads of data-based project impact analysis. Then it was presented at a company meeting.
“Dave Griswold, the founder of Sustainable Harvest, kicked off the meeting by dropping a printed copy of the 60-page report on the meeting table and declaring, ‘BORING,'” Brody said. “It was a punch in the gut. Hmph. But he was right.”
2017 also provided some data analysis challenges for the Sustainable Harvest team — a group accustomed to data collection, analysis and presentation as it maintains its status as a certified B Corp — since the group altered and refined the metrics it was using for data collected from its producer partners.
“As we began writing this report, it became clear that new metrics would impair our ability to conduct a more standard year-over-year analysis of performance,” Brody said. “At the time, we weren’t even sure we would continue to do annual reports — perhaps transitioning to online dashboards, freshly updated with quarterly data.”
So, at Griswold’s urging, the SH crew decided to have a little fun with the 2017 report, borrowing from Brody’s and Chief Technical Officer Oscar Magro’s affinity for comics.
The report is broken into five comic action scenes following traditional villain/hero comic tropes. In a vignette on farmer income and Fairtrade, a villain representing the commodities price called C the Destroyer is defeated by a range of farmer-income tools. In one scene, a character named Mansplain gets put in his place by three women producers. In yet another, a hero named F1 fights off several forces of nature. You get the idea.
The report does highlight some of SH’s specific programming for the year, while outlining new initiatives for the coming year, but it very much remains geared toward accessibility through pop appeal.
“While collecting and analyzing the data has been valuable from a performance management standpoint, we’ve found that these more standard reports fail to generate much of a conversation,” Brody said. “I wish it weren’t true, but I don’t think most folks ever read impact or sustainability reports. Still, that’s probably on us — which is a big reason why we wanted to try something fresh.”