Step 4: Build a good structure

Faye Turner

12 min Read Time | August 10th 2021

Key Takeaways

Introduce the broader impact issue, tailor it to the industry and SDG you chose, and give a sense of how the topic affects society or the environment.

Provide an in-depth analysis of the impact, being as granular as possible, including impact data, and assessing the impact compared to the broader issue.

Provide an impact statement, and sum up the main points without adding new information.

1. Introduction

The introduction should describe the broader impact issue to set the stage for the reader, and link to the SDG you chose. The link to the SDG does not need to be made explicitly.

To help you illustrate the broader issue, include the answers to the following questions: Why is the topic relevant? Why is it important? Why do you want to talk about it? And more importantly, what is the current, metric-based, situation?

More concretely, you should strive to include:

1/ Some background with statistics to illustrate the issue

Example: "Accounting for about 22-46% of visible litter, cigarette butts are among the most widely littered trash globally1."

2/ One sentence or two on why it matters. In other words, how does this tie into a larger problem (associated with one SDG, which you do not need to precise)

Example: "Discarded cigarette butts are carried down the streets to drains, rivers and finally dumped in the ocean and its beaches2."

3/ A sentence to disclose what you will talk about, i.e. the core impact described

Example: "In 2019, nearly 4,211,962 cigarette butts were collected in the US alone as part of the ocean trash3;p15."

Let’s look at two other examples to best understand the format of a great introduction.

Example 1

1/ Background with relevant statistics:

"Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women1causing 627,000 deaths in 20182."

2/ One or two sentences on the problem, why it matters and its impact:

"In 2018, there were an estimated 2 million cases of breast cancer in the world, which is almost 23% of all cancers1. In the treatment of breast cancer, clinical trials are advised3."

3/ A sentence to clarify what your analysis will focus on

"A Clinical trial is a research study to test new approaches to treatment3. It is to test whether the treatment and drugs are safe and effective for the patient3."

Example 2

1/ Background with relevant statistics:

"Energy production accounts for 72.0% of carbon emissions worldwide, by far the most significant source compared to other sectors1."

2/ One or two sentences on the problem, why it matters and its impact:

"To reach the Paris agreement goal of keeping a global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius, the transition towards renewable energy plays a significant role."

3/ A sentence to clarify what your analysis will focus on

"For this transition to happen in time, reliable and stable investment is necessary from both private and institutional sources."

2. Body

It is in this part that you start talking about the company’s actions and impact in a precise and analytical fashion.

This remains the most important and longest part of your impact note. For these reasons, you may divide it up into 2-3 sections to improve readability.

What you must NOT do

1/ Do not include a description of the company and its activities.

The only exception is if the readers need this context in order to effectively gauge the value and scope of the impact, or if the note does not make sense without this extra information.

Example: “Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil producer, leading the top carbon emitter list with a share of 12.3%”

2/ Do not indicate your opinion on the subject

Always stick to facts and figures. Your main value added here is not your opinion but rather your critical synthesis and assessment of all the pieces of information you researched.

3/ Do not copy-paste a list of facts without adding value

What you do not want to do is extract information directly from a source or list a succession of facts without processing the information and providing a critical assessment.

4/ Do not follow a list or bullet point format

Remember that these analyses are meant to be read by a larger audience. To make it easier to grasp the impact you are examining, following a logical flow and using connecting words, but not through bullet points or simple lists. As explained above, we are looking for analysts to add value to the topic.

What you MUST do in this part

1/ Follow an analytical flow

This means that you should clarify the cause-to-effect relationship of the impact you describe. Following the logic model approach can sometimes be adequate: you can start from the company’s intentions, then talk about inputs and activities, to conclude on the final outputs, outcomes and impact.

2/ Be as granular as possible by focusing on a single issue, project, or initiative

For more information on how to be granular, make sure to check our dedicated article.

3/ Provide as much depth as possible by including precise data in the form of facts and figures, both absolute (e.g. tonnes of CO2) and relative (e.g. % increase)

You should always strive to inform readers of:

  • what outcome does the effect relate to
  • how significant is the effect in this time period
  • who experiences the effect

👉 For more information on the dimensions of impact, check out this short article.

4/ Go beyond companies’ websites, CSR and ESG report

For this, you must gather information from external sources, put them in perspective and develop a synthesis that helps your reader better understand what is really taking place.

For more information on how to go beyond ESG and CSR, check out Golden rule #4.

5/ Try to assess potential limits and flaws that remain to be addressed

This will help your analysis to be more critical and nuanced, providing added value.

You can also do this by including information from additional sources that are varied and reliable that might have varied points of view on this impact.

Example 1

"Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil producer, leading the top carbon emitter list with a share of 12.3%3. It has emitted an approximated 59.26 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent since 19655. After being fully nationalized in 1980, Saudi Aramco pumped around 116 Bbbl of crude oil from the kingdom’s desert and the Persian Gulf, an amount of oil responsible for releasing over 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in just four decades – more than double China’s yearly emissions4. Since 2000, Saudi Aramco has massively increased its carbon emission, reaching 2,000 million tonnes of CO2 in a single year by 20153."

Taken from:

Example 2

"Bioaccumulation of toxins in populations of large marine animals with long life spans is expected. In fact, the spill has been linked to the largest and longest lasting dolphin die-off in the Gulf of Mexico6. Sea turtles have also been impacted due to the disturbance of their nesting sites7. Between 4,900 and 7,600 large juvenile and adult sea turtles and between 56,000 and 166,000 small juvenile sea turtles were killed by the spill8. A total of 22 different marine mammal species were negatively impacted by the spill9, while impacts on pelagic fish embryonic development were also reported10."

Taken from:

3. Conclusion

The conclusion should recap the main points of the analysis without adding any new elements.

It should include an impact statement: after taking into account the broader issue and the actions of the company, what is the net impact of the company on the issue at hand? Is it positive or negative? Is the impact significant when compared to the data illustrating the broader issue?

Example 1

"Inditex “both pioneered and perfected the art of fast fashion”, now it has the responsibility and the financial means to become the most sustainable brand in the textile industry and change the trend of overconsumption of garments."

Example 2

"To conclude, LVMH has set some ambitious targets to ensure biodiversity protection across its supply chain. While it has achieved some of them, it is now critical to scrutinize whether or not all objectives will be met this year."


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