Over the past 20 years, global companies have increasingly committed to publishing sustainability reports (Turkish: sürdürülebilirlik raporu) that disclose their environmental, social, and governance performance to stakeholders. These reports are informative in nature, yes, but they are also engaging pieces of marketing content. Here are some important points to consider when translating corporate sustainability reports into English or Turkish:
Familiarize yourself with key terminology. Companies generally follow the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards in sustainable reporting and share this information at the beginning of the report. And the most common option they use is Core. The Turkish term for Core is Temel. A repeated mistake in English to Turkish translations is to translate Core as Çekirdek or Esas, and in Turkish to English translations, translate Temel as Basic or Foundation. It is important to check the GRI website to find the correct terms if you encounter any sentence describing the reporting standards.
Another big terminology problem is materiality. Sustainability reports feature materiality assessments that identify and describe key sustainability issues that matter the most to a business, its stakeholders, and its value chain. The Turkish headline for this section is Öncelikli Konular, and it is often translated as Priority Issues. Unless a specific instruction comes from the client, it should be translated as Material Issues. Similarly, the Turkish term for this assessment is often Önceliklendirme Analizi, and this should be translated as Materiality Analysis, not Prioritization Analysis.
You will also notice a section dedicated to discussing how a company’s certain project or initiative advances a Sustainable Development Goal. There are 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and each has an official translation. Check out the UN’s website in different languages to use the correct terminology.
Here is a short list of other common sustainability terms:
|Carbon Border Adjustments||Sınırda Karbon Düzenlemesi|
|Carbon Disclosure Project||Karbon Saydamlık Projesi|
|Circular economy||Döngüsel ekonomi|
|Climate neutral||İklim nötr|
|Environmental, social, and governance (ESG)||Çevresel, sosyal ve yönetişim (ÇSY)|
|EU Green Deal||AB Yeşil Mutabakatı|
|Forest Stewardship Council||Orman Yönetim Konseyi|
|Good Manufacturing Practices||İyi Üretim Uygulamaları|
|Green Building Council||Yeşil Bina Konseyi|
|New Plastics Economy Global Commitment||Yeni Plastik Ekonomisi Küresel Taahhüdü|
|Regenerative agriculture||Onarıcı tarım|
|Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil||Sürdürülebilir Palm Yağı Yuvarlak Masası|
|Sharing economy||Paylaşım ekonomisi|
|Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)||Sürdürülebilir Kalkınma Amaçları (sometimes Küresel Amaçlar)|
Know your client. Businesses may create a sustainability brand and opt to name their reports differently in English and Turkish. They may have various green projects or initiatives with established translations that regularly appear in their reports. To avoid any mistranslations, make sure to study previous sustainability reports and even corporate websites. Pay special attention to:
- Names of products, brands, and services;
- Titles of key personnel, i.e., CEO, directors, managers;
- Company departments, divisions, sections, units;
- Industry, business activities, locations, subsidiaries (if any), affiliations; and
- Awards and standardization certificates.
Be extra careful about international awards as you will often find their translations in the report. Trace back to the source to find the original award names and categories if you are translating into the original language. For instance,
Turkish source: C-Bank Genel Müdürü, Stevie Ödülleri’nde “Bankacılık Sektöründe Yılın Yöneticisi” kategorisinde Altın Ödül almaya layık görüldü.
Incorrect: C-Bank General Manager won the Golden Award in the Stevie Awards in the “Administrator of the Year in Banking” category.
Correct: C-Bank General Manager became the Gold Stevie Winner in the “Executive of the Year – Banking” category.
If you check out the Stevie Awards’ official website, you will notice that no category is named “Administrator of the Year,” and they do not say, “Golden Award.” Just five minutes on Google can work wonders for your translations.
Use plain language. This non-financial reporting usually aims to promote best sustainable practices, improve brand reputation and customer/employee loyalty, and encourage socially responsible investments into firms with strong sustainability performance. The best sustainability reports often adopt an optimistic, inspirational, and sincere tone in plain language to explain sustainability in a way that makes sense to the target audience without resorting to cliches. And it is essential to achieve the same effect in the translation, as well. So, transcreation is the best approach.
A glimpse into what transcreation means for our new followers:
Focus on the message, avoid verbatim translation: Tips for Turkish to English Transcreation
Translate for impact with careful use of relative clauses and sentence variation: Translate for impact: Writing powerful sentences in Turkish to English translations
Avoid junk words: How to avoid junk words? Tips on plain language.
Follow Dragoman or client style guides. A style guide is a set of conventions about your brand’s writing style and formatting. It ensures consistency across all your copies, which strengthens your brand identity. In a sustainability report, you would want to ensure that all figures, dates, days, times, currency, and percentages are written according to certain rules. For instance, preferring “US dollars” on one page and switching to the dollar sign “$” on the next is not a good look. Follow Dragoman style guides if you are not provided with that of your client.
Executive letters. The first few pages of sustainability reports generally present letters from the Board Chair and CEO. These letters recap the reporting period, assess the relevant industry or market, and highlight important sustainability events and milestones for the organization. Getting these letter translations right is crucial to make a great first impression on readers. Not to mention, they also reflect on the prestige of an organization. Apart from using plain language, think about how you can make your translation sound more natural and captivating in the target language. Do not hesitate to change sentence structures or even sequences. If the letter talks about a specific economic development that influenced the company’s sustainability performance, try to read relevant articles in the target language and see how native speakers form their sentences or choose their words when talking about that development.
It is also important to stay away from cliches. For example, executives sign off their letters by thanking stakeholders. Even though authors themselves might use different words to express their appreciation, nine out of ten translations read like this “I (or we) would like to thank (…).” Native English speakers do not use “I would like to” as much as native Turkish speakers. You can simply say “Thank you (…)” or try to find alternative ways to say thanks, such as “We or (I) truly appreciate (…),” “I am grateful (…),” “We couldn’t have done it without you”, etc. Remember, the last sentences are important just as much as the first ones, if not more.