Three ways to improve your stakeholder engagement

Sustainability provides new challenges and opportunities. It is complex and constantly changing. As it is so dynamic, companies are usually not able to deal with these challenges, or benefit from its opportunities, on their own. This is where stakeholder engagement comes in. Working with stakeholders can provide new insights, better relationships, business opportunities, and a better reputation. Participation of stakeholders helps a company in developing a strategic response to sustainability. However, engaging with stakeholders is easier said than done. In this blog we will give three tips for taking stakeholder engagement to the next level.

1. Integrate stakeholder engagement in your planning & control cycle

Your company probably already engages in some form of stakeholder dialogue. Yet, not many companies talk to their stakeholders on a regular, structured basis. One option is to organise an annual interactive stakeholder dialogue. During such an event, various parties get a chance to tell an organisation what they think it should be focusing on. The company benefits because it gets a chance to hear first-hand what is important. If these dialogues are held on a regular basis, such as annually or even more often, you will identify potential risks and challenges early on. This prevents your organisation from being taken by surprise and be better prepared for future developments.

2. Internalise stakeholder interaction in cross-departmental communications

Organisational structures tend to get more complicated as companies grow bigger. This leads to more specialised departments that are less aware of what is going on elsewhere in the company. The risk is that these departments start to work in ‘silos’, as we often see with large organisations. At the same time, they generally have their own unique sets of stakeholders. Several departments might be having different dialogues with the same stakeholders about different topics. At the same time, they generally have their own unique sets of stakeholders, bot within the organisation and outside of it. Without internalising stakeholder interaction, departments may end up competing for time and resources. Facility management may be looking to reduce building energy and emissions, while HR is running a green mobility program. If departments share information, they can build upon each other’s work. Linking individuals from different departments facilitates the exchange of ideas and serves to coordinate joint action of different departments where this is valuable. This, in turn, helps achieve organisational objectives.

3. Keep track of new stakeholders

Our third tip: Broaden your horizon! If you take a look at a company’s set of stakeholders, you will notice that many names have been there for years. For example, an airport will always want to be in close contact with surrounding municipalities and a bank will always keep track of what investors find important. Although regular stakeholders are important and their opinions are valuable, it is useful to hear new voices as well. For example, while local municipalities will always ask the airport to keep noise levels to a minimum, new stakeholders such as start-ups might lead to finding new technologies for actually doing so. Finding these new stakeholders is not that hard. Just think of regular tender processes (new supplier!) or the organisation of a business case for entrepreneurs and start-ups. However, it does require a mind-set of being receptive to new voices and opportunities.  That ultimately comes down to the people on your organisation.

 

This blog is based on research performed by Willem Aberson for his Master’s thesis. For the accompanying scientific references and further in-depth reading material, please contact Willem at willem.aberson@sustainalize.nl