Your company is probably one of a growing number that acknowledge the importance of sustainability. Sustainable companies are those that  provide what people want to buy, and operate in a manner conducive to the long term prosperity and well-being of the communities they serve. Effective stakeholder engagement is at the heart of sustainability. Your stakeholders are a great source of knowledge that will help you to improve business processes and future-proof your business.

The stakeholder engagement win-win-win : When you action processes to engage better with your stakeholders, you learn more about them and their aspirations, and about your staff and their aspirations. This equips you with the knowledge to create better goods and services that your customers want, and operate in ways that enhance your reputation and create stronger relationships with staff.

What is stakeholder engagement?

Stakeholder engagement and sustainability

Its useful to think of sustainability as the concept that encompasses other ideas such as stakeholder engagement. Other concepts that relate to these are corporate social responsibility, the triple bottom line, and corporate citizenship. So stakeholder engagement can be regarded as a component of sustainability. We believe it to be the place to start, or to re-energise your journey towards sustainability. more about stakeholder engagement>>

Why engage better?

Striving to understand the aspirations of your stakeholders, engaging and initiating projects of mutual interest, demonstrates your commitment to stakeholders and can only enhance your reputation.
Learn from stakeholders for better organisational effectiveness. Implementing an effective stakeholder engagement process will have a beneficial impact on the way you run your business. It will create a positive impact on four areas that help to boost business effectiveness: leadership, learning, communication and change. more>>
Staff engagement and retention is a hot topic. Your staff love to feel valued and included. As engagement becomes your primary means of communication, you will undoubtedly improve morale. The key to better staff engagement is to improve leadership and communication.
Environmental, social and financial sustainability is enhanced with stakeholder engagement. Your stakeholders are interested in your performance in these areas and their feedback will point you to those areas that will enhance your sustainability.
Companies have given of their resources often in an ad hoc way. Effective engagement will point you to ways of engaging of benefit to both you and your stakeholders. This is the “sweet spot” where your contribution to the community also generates benefits for you. And we can’t forget that by becoming more environmentally sustainable we can contribute, not only to local communities, but can benefit the planet.

Who are stakeholders?

Stakeholder engagement is connecting with people or groups of people who are impacted by your company and/or can influence your company. Stakeholders generally have something at risk through their association with your company. Stakeholders differ in the degree that they are linked to your business. Staff are tightly linked, where customers are more loosely linked. By engaging them, you get to understand them better, and they get to understand you better.

They can be internal stakeholders – such as staff, external stakeholders, such as the community or customers or somewhere in between, such as some of your suppliers.

Stakeholder engagement Processes

All organisations are open, to a degree, to stakeholders. A stakeholder engagement process formalises engagement and generates learning inside your company so you get to know what matters to your various stakeholders.

We use Accountability’s AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard as the main tool to guide engagement. The AA1000 outlines processes for identifying stakeholders, identifying the issues that matter to them, planning to action your learning and ways to assess your effectiveness.

The inputs required to formalise your stakeholder engagement processes are summarised below.  At the start of the process, an external facilitator helps to surface your company’s knowledge and align it with the standard. Stakeholder input injects new knowledge and can later be used to audit your processes. As your engagement systems mature, you may choose to seek external assurance. More details of these processes are available on the AA1000 series page.

Effective stakeholder engagement processes will engage your staff. Organisational learning processes help to mine the implicit knowledge that often goes untapped. Your staff will know who most of your key stakeholders are and will have valuable contacts you may not be aware of.
External facilitators are useful in that they can spotlight potential blind spots. Their main task is often to ensure that the focus remains external to the organisation. An effective facilitator will coach your people to be able to step into your stakeholder’s shoes and see the world from their perspective.
When your stakeholder engagement system is well established, you might choose to have your systems assured (audited) by a third party. This is helpful if you want to assure stakeholders that your efforts stack up with international standards.
Ultimately, the heart of your stakeholder engagement is engagement with your stakeholders. It is already happening, but a formalised stakeholder engagement system will help ensure that you understand your stakeholder’s world-view, and get the benefits of their perspectives. Their aspirations become integrated into your thinking and you become more relevant to them.
AccountAbility’s Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES) is a useful guide for your stakeholder processes. For large companies, the AA1000SES can be used fully. Smaller organisations are advised to understand the principles, and adapt the AA1000SES to fit available resources. The system itself should not be so resource hungry, that it diverts resources away from actual engagement.
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