Translating ESG reports: ready to print in just three steps

The EU’s new CSR Directive has transformed a voluntary commitment into an obligation for many companies. Now, publishing a sustainability report on their activities – often in multiple languages – is a must. How can they best tackle this challenge? Below, we lay out a comprehensive roadmap for handling the language side of the process.

Some companies have been reporting on their social, environmental and economic impact for some time now; others only began in 2024. The standard format for this is the environmental, social and governance (ESG) report. Whether you’re one of the chosen ones to whom the directive applies, or you’re voluntarily making your commitment public, a structured approach can relieve a lot of stress. Especially if you’re planning to publish in multiple languages.

Thanks to our experience with projects for Karl Lagerfeld and many more brands, we’re familiar with all the ins and outs of ESG reporting. And we’re happy to pass on our knowledge to ensure that you’re ready to print in any language when the time comes for your next report.

1. Define your language(s) and service

What languages do you want to publish in? And how will the translation be carried out? The standard procedure involves the language of the local market as well as, at a minimum, English. And AI translation offers a practical option for the initial phase of the process, saving a significant amount of time and money when dealing with multiple target languages. Data protection, however, is one area where you should never seek to economize. That’s why we recommend using a service such as Textshuttle to complete your machine translation under the highest security standards: encrypted, hosted on highly secure Swiss servers and managed via single sign-on (SSO).

When it comes to sustainability reports it’s not just accurate translation that’s key – storytelling matters as well. After all, you want your efforts to protect the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit – to have just as great an impact in every language. That’s why we recommend determining what professional fine-tuning measures your report will require as early as possible. The sooner you define these and incorporate them into your strategy, the quicker you’ll be able to publish when reporting season rolls around.

Uniform terminology ensures the necessary consistency across multiple languages: the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have become the established standards for financial terminology within the EU. In the medium-term, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group is working on developing new European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) derived from the CSR Directive’s requirements.

It therefore makes sense to include the defined terminology from these standards in your glossary, which will either be consulted by the language professional involved or added directly to the AI translation engine. To ensure that the translation takes into account your corporate language, you’ll also need style guides and a tone of voice document to hand.

2. Define your process

Once you’ve defined your languages and service, you’ll need to set up a workflow that is as simple – and starts as early – as possible. Our best practice is as follows:

Start of the year: pre-translation

The majority of your content is already available long before the key figures are finalized. That’s why it’s best to pre-translate your report, especially if it’s a long one. As a rule, 80% of the content can be processed at a very early stage – which cuts down on stress for you.

1–2 weeks before printing: remaining translation

The remaining 20% of the translation takes the most time – from 48 hours to one week, depending on the volume.

3–7 days before printing: proofreading

Directly in your editorial system or with one PDF per language. You’ll receive the corrections back after about two days, shown directly in the final layout.

24 hours before printing: last-minute changes

Last-minute changes, such as those requested by the CEO, are a normal part of this process but can be hard to predict ahead of time. That’s why it’s essential to factor space for them into your schedule – and to set up an on-call service if necessary. For large projects, these changes can be implemented directly in the manuscript.

Proofreading (ready to print)

The moment of truth: if everything is correct after this stage, you can give the printers the green light.

3 weeks after publication: debriefing

In the following weeks, you should hold a debriefing with your language service provider. What went well and what did not? What do you need to improve next year?

3. Take advantage of technology

Now all you need to do is select the setup for your future translation process. Here, the golden rule is: the more automated the better. Modern computer-aided translation tools can make your life significantly easier. For example:

  • We store your multilingual company glossary in a termbase – a digital dictionary that automatically incorporates your corporate wording into the translation process, along with terminology from defined international standards.
  • Meanwhile, any translations from the previous year are fed into a translation memory using a process called “alignment”. This allows your chosen language professionals to copy over parts that are unchanged from previous years – and there are usually plenty of those. This means you benefit from even greater consistency, faster throughput times and around 30% lower costs when it comes to the next report.
  • Direct integration for faster publication: Supertext offers tried-and-true software integrations for various editorial systems. The result: an even more efficient translation process and a live overview of all language versions, including status tracking. And there’s no need to compromise on security: your data is always secured with 256-bit encryption.

Ever more efficient

It pays to be prepared: the briefing for the next year’s edition will begin in the fall after your multilingual ESG report is published. Together with your team, you will analyze the previous report and align terminology – making the next round of reporting even more efficient.

Want to talk about your 2024 sustainability report? Get in touch.

Cover image via Envato

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