Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seven proven ways to get colleagues on board with sustainability and corporate responsibility

Wayne Dunn, author of a few recent excellent pieces on stakeholder engagement, offers some thoughts for readers on that all important stakeholder group of internal executives and managers

Here's his other recent articles that may be of interest, all highly practical:

The top five mistakes companies make in engaging stakeholders



Internal stakeholders may be the best investment you can make in the sustainability of your stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs!! Seriously.

We all know examples where the people dealing with communities, stakeholders and responsibilities are ghettoized in a corner of a project or company and not seen as part of the ‘real business’.

Best...
They are tolerated, sometimes even encouraged, but when budgets get tight they are often squarely in the cutting line.

Not a very sustainable position to be in. You don’t want to be there and if that is where you are you want to change your positioning.

Successfully engaging internal stakeholders is key. Do it right and other parts of your organization will recognize the important contribution your work makes to profitability, shareholder value and their specific interests.

Drop the ball on internal stakeholder engagement and you are likely near the front of the line the next time cuts and downsizing happens and near the back of the line for budget increases.

The core principles for successfully engaging internal stakeholders are much the same as for other stakeholder groups.

Some of them include (in no particular order):

1) What’s in it for them? Think of their interests

Take ‘what’s in it for me’ from top to bottom and side to side of your company through finance, human resources, investor relations, engineering, C-suites, etc.

Think through what is in it for them if your work is successful. How does your success help their success?

Then think through what impact it has on them if your work fails? What happens if your project or company loses its social license?

Think these through, make lists and communicate them (more on that later). Keep them updated with specific examples

2) Build allies, find champions

Even with your most compelling arguments not everyone will become a raving fan of your work. But, if you engage appropriately some will, or at least they will be overtly supportive.

Work with them. Help them to know more about your work and what it means for their area and interests, for the company and for other key areas.

Give them the information, support and rationale to be a champion for you.

3) Share stories from their peers

Stories are great for communicating. Find some that can help you to reach internal stakeholders.

Find short, pointed stories on how CSR/stakeholder engagement and other related areas had big impacts on particular areas and then share them appropriately.

One of my favourites involves a CFO of major global mining company. I met with him near the conclusion of a project where I was doing an assessment of their social license/CSR work in a particular geographic region they were working in.

They were doing incredible in that region, clearly one of the best examples in the world (this was in 1999 and it is still one of the best – they were way ahead of the game).

But, the systems and successes they realized in the region I assessed were not consistent across their operations. They had countries and regions where they were doing little or nothing. Big risks. And they didn’t see them.

I explained the risk to the CFO and that if they had a problem, if something came up in those areas they would have a hard time to respond to an agitated public and confrontational stakeholder groups (think about making friends in the middle of a mob!)

I think he was quite happy to see me leave his office.

About a month later the company had a cyanide spill that, while technically not a major concern, quickly became a major international issue for them and even for the country they were headquartered in.

The spill happened some distance from their mine and in a community in which they had literally zero relationships, but one that had seen their impact and traffic for a few years. All vehicle traffic to and from the mine passed through this community.

One can imagine how the community felt as trucks drove through it daily, going to and from the mine and nobody from the company ever came by, nor did they have much of a chance at jobs or business at the minesite.

The community used the spill to get attention, and attention they got. Suddenly there were advocacy and special interest NGOs all over the community and the incident got a lot of global media attention.

Share price plummeted and the company went into emergency response. Except, they didn’t really have the relationships with international stakeholders to mount a quick and effective response to this situation. (think again of building relationships in a mob)

A couple of months later when I was back at headquarters, the CFO actually asked to see me. He had been through a pretty rough period.

As the share price tanked the company was suddenly getting all sorts of attention it didn’t like from investors, lenders and other financial stakeholders.

They found themselves offside of important agreements like debt to market capitalization covenants. 

Suddenly, a skeptical CFO was a believer. The success of stakeholder engagement and CSR programs did have real meaning and value for his job. 

4) Don’t be a do gooder. Keep your organization’s interest paramount

Do good work but don’t be a do gooder. Your work and the good you do is important for sure. But, so are the interests of your company. Keep your work consciously aligned with the interests of your company.

Always, always, keep company’s interests at forefront. Link what you want to do to what is good for the company or will mitigate risk for the company. Lose that link and you are lost.

Keep that link present in your thinking and your communications. Your company wants good work but not a do-gooder. Same for the stakeholders you are working with.

5) Learn their language

You will be much more effective at communicating with various internal stakeholder groups if you ‘learn their language’. Hint: Do-gooder language won’t get you very far in the CFO’s office!

Learn enough about their world and priorities that you can communicate with them in a way that they can hear and that doesn’t make you seem like you’re from a foreign planet (which is how some of them may see stakeholder engagement and CSR before you start to educate them). 

6) Be passionate, but not fanatical

Most of us working in CSR and stakeholder engagement are passionate about our work. So too are many working in other areas of your organization.

Passion is a gift. Cherish it.

It is perfectly fine to be passionate about your work and the impact it is having (on stakeholders AND for shareholders). But, don’t be fanatical about it. Passionate is constructive. Fanatical is destructive.

This is a simple communication skill but often can be challenging to apply, especially when projects and initiatives feel so important.

Be conscious that there is a fine line between passionate and fanatical and stay on the constructive side of it.

7) Assertive humility: Humble AND assertive

Temper all internal stakeholder engagement with assertive humility. We’ve all seen do-gooders that come across as ‘holier than thou’. It is a turn-off.

We’ve also seen the meek and mild who struggle to make a point and don’t communicate effectively.

The work you are doing is important. Very important. So is the work that others in your company are doing. Recognize both of these realities.

Internal stakeholders are key to the success of your work. Do not assume that they are automatically on your side. Invest time in understanding them and their interests and why your success supports their success.


Learn to engage and communicate with them in effective ways and you, your work, your company and your other stakeholders will all benefit.

Advertisement:

Wayne Dunn and Toby Webb are leading an intensive two-day session on How to effectively engage stakeholders in frontier markets.  The program runs on Oct 30-31 in Central London.  Information and registration is available here. Eight places remain on the course from a maximum of 20 participants.

The experts taking part in this workshop have experience at working with companies such as Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, Vedanta and many others.

  • Find out how the world's leading high impact companies engage stakeholders successfully
  • Learn how your company can get difficult engagement right, in process, in practice and on the ground
  • Discover how to make the case for more resources to senior management - and how to make that stick
  • Expert tips from your peers in a closed environment, learn from those who got it right, and wrong
Objectives & learning outcomes
The programme objective is to provide participants with insights, understanding, tools, techniques, strategies and networks that will help them and their companies to be more effective at engaging and working with stakeholders in what used to be known as emerging markets – now frontier markets.
Who attends?
The Program is designed for professionals from industry, NGOs, governments, civil society and the multi-lateral/international world. The training is cross-industry and is relevant for a  
Participants will include senior executives, those with hands on CSR roles and those new to CSR.
Learn more about the programme here. There are five places remaining.

Other upcoming Innovation Forum events in 2014:


Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends
28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.

With: Unilever, Lord Mandelson, Greenpeace, Nestle, Wilmar, TFT, ADM, Mondelez, M&S and many others 

----

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships

10 November, 2014, London. More details here.

With: John Lewis, ABB, Ericsson, Novartis, PUMA, the Economist, De Beers, Anglo American, Bechtel, Amnesty, Oxfam and many others. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eight reasons that sustainability drives financial outperformance

A new report has just been published which makes a compelling business case for sustainability.

Here are the brief highlights, and a link to the full report is here.

Thanks to Bob Eccles at Harvard to bringing this to my attention. It's well worth a read. 

It's based on analysis of 190 papers and significant sources and is written by Gordon Clark of the University of Oxford, Andreas Feiner of Arabesque Asset Management Ltd, and Michael Viehs of the University of Oxford.

According to the email Bob sent me, the report "examines the relationship between sustainability and corporate operational performance, sustainability and the cost of capital (both equity and debt), and sustainability and stock prices. In all three cases, the paper summarizes findings from the literature in terms of the usual three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, social, and governance."

In brief, the report writers conclude that:

•   Companies with strong sustainability scores show better operational performance and are less risky
•   Investment strategies that incorporate ESG issues outperform comparable non-ESG strategies
•   Active ownership creates value for companies and investors.

Now, one might argue that academics and research folk who get paid to promote sustainability (as I do) are bound to make the business case for what they do. That's true, but our world is full of minor conflicts of interest. Ultimately academics and research outfits will live or die by the quality of their work over time. 

This report is no panacea for persuading the deeply sceptical CEO, who will make the point above, no doubt. Sometimes only generational change will deliver paradigm shifts. But the report is well written, easy to read and even for a non-finance industry layperson like myself, makes memorable points. 

We've moving on from Orlitzky et al (2003), a huge meta study that showed: "that corporate virtue in the form of social responsibility and, to a lesser extent, environmental responsibility is likely to pay off".

Now studies, such as this new one, are becoming more confident, and more evidence based as researchers have more time (in that year on year data is available) to back up their assertions. 

Look at the work of Alex Edmans or Ioannis Ioannou of London Business School for evidence of this.

Here's the eight quick takeaways from the new report mentioned above:

1.      Sustainability is one of the most significant trends in financial markets for decades.

2.      This report represents the most comprehensive knowledge base on sustainability to date. It is based on more than 190 academic studies, industry reports, newspaper articles, and books.

3.      90% of the studies on the cost of capital show that sound sustainability standards lower the cost of capital of companies.

4.      88% of the research shows that solid ESG practices result in better operational performance of firms.

5.      80% of the studies show that stock price performance of companies is positively influenced by good sustainability practices.

6.      Based on the economic impact, it is in the best interest of investors and corporate managers to incorporate sustainability considerations into their decision making processes.

7.      Active ownership allows investors to influence corporate behavior and benefit from improvements in sustainable business practices.

8.      The future of sustainable investing is likely to be active ownership by multiple stakeholder groups including investors and consumers.


Advertisements:


Three focused, detailed and practical sustainable business events for your diary

Upcoming Innovation Forum events in 2014:


Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends
28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.

With: Unilever, Lord Mandelson, Greenpeace, Nestle, Wilmar, TFT, ADM, Mondelez, M&S and many others 
----

An exclusive two-day executive training workshop, certified by the CSR Training Institute
30-31 October, 2014, London. More details here.

With direct experience from: Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, and many others 
----

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships

10 November, 2014, London. More details here.

With: John Lewis, ABB, Ericsson, Novartis, PUMA, the Economist, De Beers, Anglo American, Bechtel, Amnesty, Oxfam and many others. 

‘The Social License - How to Keep your Organization Legitimate’ - book review by Paul Hohnen

Useful reading 

Paul Hohnen offers a few thoughts on John Morrison's new book below.

Yes I have plugged the book on the blog before, but it's an excellent addition to anyone's library, so I don't mind doing it again.

Looking for a good ‘bluffer’s guide’ to human rights written by a recognized expert?  This book is not it.

It contains few or none of the slick consultant Venn diagrams, tables and check-lists one often finds in the ‘how to’ business management literature.

Nor is it a book written for an academic audience, rich in theory and new perspectives, and festooned with footnotes.  Bluffers and academics alike, however, will find much to learn.

Anyone who has had the privilege of hearing John Morrison speak, or read his other writings, will know broadly what to expect.

This book is a deeply thoughtful and informative analysis of evolving social, business and regulatory expectations and trends, drawing on the author’s score of years experience at the front line of the business and human rights movement.

The ‘Social License’ is primarily addressed to a policy and practitioner audience in the business, governmental and civil society (including academic) sectors interested in gaining a deeper insight into one of the great challenges of our time: how best to understand and respond to the growing - and even existential  - challenges posed by our current development model.

Drawing on a broad range of well-documented human rights cases, including from the extractives and electronics sectors, John describes and methodically unpacks the concept of the corporate ‘license to operate’.

Noting that societal consent – at a regulatory, political and social level – is needed for most development projects to be successful in the long term, John defines the social licence as ‘the sum of expectations between an organisation and relevant social groups in relation to a specific activity or set of activities.’

Readers hoping to find a comprehensive ‘plug and play’ humans rights framework will be disappointed.

As John points out, while instruments such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (a.k.a. the ‘Ruggie Principles’) and the OECD MNE Guidelines are valuable and instructive, the realities on the ground are more complex and ever shifting. Like everything else in the sustainability field, a one-time ‘tick-box’ or compliance approach only takes you so far.

The real lesson is that corporate and other actors derive most value from listening carefully to the views of all stakeholders and, using relevant laws and standards, craft a balanced decision.  Thereafter, they need to monitor the situation closely and fine-tune as needed.

As practitioners know, this is a time and resource consuming – and frequently frustrating - task.  As John notes, there are always stakeholders who will disagree, even after being consulted extensively.  There are no easy answers.

He argues convincingly, however, that recognition of the need to acquire and maintain the ‘licence to operate’ and to engage in quality consultation processes is now (and has always been) an essential element of good governance. Failure to integrate such considerations in due diligence measures often ends in tears and, moreover, unexpected costs.

The emphasis on structured and sustained stakeholder consultations and dialogue is, of course, also to be found in the ‘materiality’ approach used by an increasing number of global companies.

Indeed, such is the maturity of this approach, once confined to financial accounting, that ‘materiality matrixes’ mapping stakeholder views of a company’s main sustainability issues, and the company’s own view, are happily becoming common place in sustainability reports.

My main reservation about the book was a nagging sense that it does not always strike the right balance between advocacy (of what should be, and why) and implementation (how to achieve it, within current development model and within the limits of governmental decision-making).

In this context, I would like to have read more about how to address the fact that all too many organizations, both public and private sector, continue to get away with flagrant human rights abuses, with little or no NGO or media coverage or regulator intervention.

If history has taught us anything, it is that the dark default mode of mankind is to pay as little as possible for its labour, energy and raw materials.  And that is precisely why it is so important to constantly promote and defend human rights.

‘The Social Licence’ is an important and welcome new contribution to the body of literature exploring why and how humankind can better live up to the high standards it has set itself, knowing that failure to do so will surely diminish our collective future.

More on the book, here.

John Morrison will be speaking and facilitating debate and discussion at Innovation Forum's conference "Business and Human Rights - How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships" on November 10th in London. Blog readers get a discount to attend, details on the event are here. Contact Charlenne Ordonnez if you'd like to come along. The conference is organised in association with the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

John will be alongside speakers and facilitators from BP, PUMA, Amnesty International, Oxfam, RBS, De Beers, Anglo American, New Look, ABB, Bechtel, Ericsson, Richard Howitt MEP and Daniel Franklin, executive editor of the Economist, amongst others.

This upcoming workshop ten days before may also be of interest:

How to effectively engage stakeholders in frontier markets
An exclusive two-day executive training workshop, certified by the CSR Training Institute
30-31 October, 2014, London

Experts taking part in this workshop have experience at working with companies such as Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, Trafigura, Vedanta Resources and many others. Five places remain for executives.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Useful free briefing on modern slavery and what companies can do about it

The Institute of Business Ethics, the excellent UK charity that focuses on pragmatic solutions, amongst other things, has put out a decent new briefing on modern slavery and what business should be aware of, and can do about it.

Here's the link, it's worth a read.

I know from tracking the stats that more of you read text put in from of you than click on links (natural really) so here's a few key nuggets from the briefing.

Apologies to IBE for over-quoting, but I thought this would be a good way to get some key facts out.

There's a lot more in their briefing than these quotes below:

"The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates forced labour leads to $150 billion in profits every year – more than the annual profits of the entire US banking industry".

That's a compelling stat to put in front of senior management. No company wants to be associated with forced labour, but I know many people think it just takes place in isolated North Korean prison camps. Not true at all.

"Risk affect most industries, electronics and high- tech, steel and automobiles, agriculture and seafood, mining and minerals, garments and textiles, and shipping and transportation are all especially at risk."

Shipping and transportation are an interesting inclusion here. More on those below. So of course is construction, as the Government of Qatar is belatedly discovering.

"Despite The Global Slavery Index 2013 awarding the UK and Ireland the best ratings of 162 countries surveyed, “this does not mean these countries are slavery free”, and further research suggests there is no room for complacency in UK businesses with “between 4,200 - 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone”."

OK that's not many, but it's still shocking. Us Brits (including Scotland, today at least!) pride ourselves on fair play and being a liberal democracy. So hard numbers are shocking. One slave is too many. No company wants to be the one that was involved in domestic market slavery, even inadvertently.

Here's a few cases from the UK which I think are really interesting, and how how easily brands working hard on the issues can end up in the headlines:

"Case 1: In 2013 a group of Lithuanian men agreed to pay for passage to Britain and the prospect of employment: they were to repay the sum through their earnings. On arrival they found themselves shuttled from farm to farm at all hours of the day and night controlled by unlicensed labour providers or gang-masters and unable to escape. The farms they worked on supplied eggs to McDonald’s, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Marks and Spencer.

"Case 2: In May 2014 two Hungarian men who forced migrants to work in conditions of slavery were jailed in the UK. The victims, all Hungarian, had been lured to Britain with promises of well-paid jobs but on arrival were forced to work very long days for little money. They were working in a factory in West Yorkshire, run by the bed manufacturer Kozeesleep that supplies mattresses to John Lewis."

More on all this, the Government agenda and some solutions can be found here: http://www.ibe.org.uk/userassets/briefings/b_43_modernslavery.pdf

Advertisements:


Three focused, detailed and practical sustainable business events for your diary:

Business and human rights      (Lots of coverage of difficult rights issues such as slavery and trafficking)

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships


10 November, 2014, London. More details here. (In Association with the Institute of Human Rights and Business)

With: John Lewis, Nestle, First State Investments, Aviva, RBS, ABB, Ericsson, Novartis, PUMA, the Economist, Oxfam and many others. 


Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends

28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.

With: Unilever, Lord Mandelson, Greenpeace, Nestle, Wilmar, TFT, ADM, Mondelez, M&S, Waitrose, and many others 


An exclusive two-day executive training workshop, certified by the CSR Training Institute
30-31 October, 2014, London. More details here.

With direct experience from: Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, and many others 


Stakeholder engagement: Six best practices and one critical principle for success

Wayne Dunn, president of the CSR Training Institute and professor of practice in CSR at McGill, a veteran of 20+ years of global CSR and sustainability projects, offers some advice.

I recently wrote a piece on five mistakes companies make in stakeholder engagement and many of you asked me to give a list of best practices. Here are six.

This list, like the last one, comes from a couple decades of rubber meets the road experience (remember, experience mostly comes from making mistakes or great mentors, or, like mine, both)
Do it right, and reap the benefits 
Honesty, trust & integrity

This is the critical principle and if you don’t get that one right the rest won’t matter.

You may have some short term results but I’m going to be shorting your stock because it’ll blow up sooner or later.

And, if it doesn’t, it should.

In no particular order here are six best practices in stakeholder engagement.

1. Think value and interests – and do it transparently

Remember, you are engaging with the stakeholders because you believe it is in your interest and that it will help you to create value.

Guess what, they are engaging with you for the same reason.

Maybe they value a pollution free world or a reduced carbon world or a child labour free supply chain, or maybe it is better schools or hospitals or something else.

Don’t judge what stakeholders value and what their interests are.

Accept it and, as much as possible, try to figure out how your business, your activity, your work might further your stakeholders’ interests.

Be creative in discovering the value propositions that can align your value and interests with those of your stakeholders.

And be transparent about what your value and interests are. Your stakeholders have it figured out anyway!

2. It’s OK to disagree – but, disagree without being disagreeable.  And stay curious

You will disagree with stakeholders, sometimes with most of them. That doesn’t make them wrong, or you wrong. And no need to be disagreeable. Stay open, stay engaged, and so important to stay curious.

One of the biggest, and possibly most unexpected, social license wins that I’ve ever been part of happened because the geologist, who ‘got stuck’ with community relations, stayed open, engaged and curious.

This was an exploration project 15 years ago and an, at the time, very small gold producer.

Because it was just down the road from a shuttered mine that had lost its social license the company knew they had to do something.

The opposition that had shut down the other mine didn’t want this one to become the first modern producing mine in the country. They had won over some of the local communities.

The engineer spent months, many months in the community. Getting to know the residents, including those who were in vehement disagreement. Trust developed. Transparency happened. Shared interests emerged and were built on.

Not everyone agreed, but the mine got built. Disagreements remained, but people were not disagreeable. And the company’s share price went from 70 cents to over $20!! And the local agricultural economy flourished.

Probably none of this would have happened without a patient, engaged, curious and agreeable geologist.

3. Do compliance but think and act strategic – check the boxes yes, but that is just the foundation

There seems to be an exponentially increasing list of standards, norms and regulatory requirements for stakeholder engagement and all things CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility].

Prof. Wayne Dunn
They are important (some of them anyway) so you can’t ignore them.  But, don’t be consumed by them. If you want stakeholder engagement to add value to your operation and meet your stakeholder’s interests and needs then mere compliance is just the foundation

Figure out what you want to be compliant with, and why. But resist the urge to embrace more and more standards and norms, to check more and more boxes.

There is a comfort and certainty to compliance. There are boundaries and a sense of completeness when you know you are compliant with yet another standard.  It is auditable and defensible.

On the other hand, strategic stakeholder engagement is often ambiguous, uncertain and sometimes even downright scary.

There is no certainty of success.

Getting out there and engaging around value and interests, accepting disagreements and continuing to search for mutually beneficial common ground and shared value is not for the faint of heart. But, it is often where the breakthroughs occur, where value is created and strong relationships developed.

Compliance focus / strategic focus.  It’s not one OR the other.  It’s BOTH.

Spend time thinking about the blend and mixture that is right for your business. It's an investment that will pay dividends

4. Share the credit, multiply the resources.  Find partners!

Actually, the foundation of this best practice was set out in #1 Think value and interests – and do it transparently. But it is so important that I decided it had to be listed separately.

This mostly focuses on your initiatives and collaboration with stakeholders, the ones focused on creating value and meeting interests for you and the stakeholders.

If that initiative is successful who else or what else benefits. Are there other people or organizations that have objectives that would be furthered by success of your collaboration with stakeholders.

If so, they could be potential partners and may well bring financial, organizational, reputational and other resources to the table.

This all sounds a bit academic and theoretical.  What does it really mean?

Say you are a consumer goods company operating in a frontier market and want to increase your local supply chain because it will reduce your costs, add unique marketing pitches to your product, and build reputational capital and social licence.

Or you are a mining company operating in a remote community and want to improve local educational capacity. Your value and interest in this includes; better educational system makes it easier to attract and retain employees, helps create a more qualified and engage-able local labour force, helps expand local livelihood potential, etc.

Or you are a petroleum company and want to enhance local skills training capacity so you are able to recruit and advance more local workers.

In all of these the value and interests of local stakeholders are self-evident. And there are many other examples in health care, environment, agricultural development, etc.

The opportunity is in thinking about who or what else shares an interest in this. Local economic, social, educational and health issues are of interest to national governments, international agencies, multi-laterals such as the United Nations, World Bank, etc., NGOs, National Development Agencies such as USAID, DfID, DFATD, GIZ*, etc.

They are also stakeholders in the success of your efforts.

Your company’s investment and support in these areas can help these stakeholders to meet and further their objectives. And they can bring resources and expertise to support your efforts. Note – the above are all real world projects.

Spend time thinking about who else benefits if you succeed. Be creative. Be strategic and remember – broad and inclusive value propositions can create a lot of value for you and for stakeholders (this is a fundamental tenant of Silicon Value entrepreneurship but that is another story…)

One of the great things about finding partners and sharing the credit in stakeholder engagement and CSR is that it is seldom a zero sum game. By sharing the credit you often get more credit yourself, and more resources to contribute to success.

(continues below)
How NOT to do it, but alas still a common approach!

5. Communicate so you are heard and understood

Communication strategies, methods and tactics will vary from group to group and area to area.

It is more than just words and message. It is about communicating so you are heard and in ways that connect to the capacities, values and interests of the audience.

6. Define stakeholders broadly and strategically – go beyond compliance

Beware of simply meeting narrow, regulatory definitions of who are your stakeholders.

Think outside the box to identify other groups and interests that would benefit from your success.

A good example of this is a real estate project that I am advising.

The project is situated in an area of large, sprawling estates in a valley on a large island.

It aims to create a ‘pocket neighbourhood’ of smaller homes, more community and less environmental footprint.

Regulatory requirements for permitting mandate consultation and engagement with local landowners/stakeholders. There is likely to be significant resistance from this group as they would see a change from large, sprawling estates as potentially reducing the value of their properties.

There are many other groups in the valley that are advocating for and supportive of the development concept that is being promoted. For the most part their regulatory involvement would be minimal unless it was stimulated.

The developer is embarking on an education campaign to help these other stakeholders better understand the specific type of development he is promoting and to help them to better educate the broader public on the Island and in the valley.

The developer is helping these people and groups to meet their interests and objectives of softer environmental footprints and at the same time he is engaging with a group of stakeholders that have an interest in the success of his permitting and can be motivated to provide support at public meetings and consultations. Hopefully avoiding the situation where the only engaged group is local residents who are likely to oppose the development.

Don’t forget internal stakeholders

You can use many of the above best practices for internal stakeholder engagement, including especially focusing on their interest and value.

What is critical is that you and your company find ways to embed best practices like these AND embed a process where you are constantly revisiting and driving this throughout the organization, permeating the organization from top to bottom and across all departments and divisions.

If stakeholder engagement is not seen as everyone’s responsibility at some level you will never achieve the success or value that is possible. Ghettoize it in some corner or department and you will seldom get it right and often get it wrong, at a cost to you and to your company.

Successfully engage your internal stakeholders and you will have easier and more consistent success with your external stakeholders.


*USAID, DfID, DFATD, GIZ are official development agencies of USA, UK, Canada and Germany.  They are examples only. There are too many others to list them all.


Wayne Dunn and Toby Webb are leading an intensive two-day session on How to effectively engage stakeholders in frontier markets.  The program runs on Oct 30-31 in Central London.  Information and registration is available here. Eight places remain on the course from a maximum of 20 participants.

The experts taking part in this workshop have experience at working with companies such as Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, Vedanta and many others.
  • Find out how the world's leading high impact companies engage stakeholders successfully
  • Learn how your company can get difficult engagement right, in process, in practice and on the ground
  • Discover how to make the case for more resources to senior management - and how to make that stick
  • Expert tips from your peers in a closed environment, learn from those who got it right, and wrong
Objectives & learning outcomes
The programme objective is to provide participants with insights, understanding, tools, techniques, strategies and networks that will help them and their companies to be more effective at engaging and working with stakeholders in what used to be known as emerging markets – now frontier markets.
Who attends?
The Program is designed for professionals from industry, NGOs, governments, civil society and the multi-lateral/international world. The training is cross-industry and is relevant for a  
Participants will include senior executives, those with hands on CSR roles and those new to CSR.
Learn more about the programme here. There are eight places remaining.