In a recent blog post, we outlined four simple steps to a materiality assessment that you should consider when developing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability program.
Now that you’ve identified your internal and external stakeholders and defined the key indicators you plan to measure, the next step is to outline a stakeholder engagement strategy.
Below we listed four steps to consider before engaging stakeholders in your sustainability reporting process:
1. Engage Stakeholders Early
Stakeholder inclusiveness should be an essential part of your sustainability reporting process. According to GRI, “the reporting organization should identify its stakeholders and explain in the report how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.” Involving your stakeholders early in your sustainability reporting process will give your organization an opportunity to understand their proprieties and emerging concerns, while discovering opportunities to address issues before they become a serious threat to your organization’s sustainability. Building an effective engagement strategy will improve trust, collaboration, open dialog and information sharing between your organization and key stakeholders.
2. Decide on the Manner in which to Engage Stakeholders
A key point to consider when building your engagement strategy is how you plan to engage, or communicate, with stakeholders. There are many ways to involve internal and external stakeholders including; surveys, questionnaires, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, community panels, or workshops. The manner you choose to communicate with stakeholders determines the level of engagement your organization will receive; from providing information at community panels, to collaborative problem solving at workshops, to joint decision making at formal meetings.
When determining the manner in which to engage your selected audience, an important step is to understand the needs of your stakeholders, their interest in participating and any resource constraints that might prevent them from taking part. Your organization will need to show that it understands stakeholder’s views, values or concerns in order to build trust and collaboration.
3. Decide on the Content and Frequency of Communications
Regular dialog and feedback with your stakeholders should be a pivotal part of your sustainability program. Outlining a detailed time frame for initial and follow-up communications or meetings will help manage stakeholder’s expectations and maximize engagement. An important point to consider is your stakeholder’s preferences as they pertain to frequency, at times quarterly or semi-annual communications might be sufficient.
Your communications with stakeholders should articulate clear objectives and outline any corporate rules of engagement, including information regarding confidential data, privileged conversations and anonymity.
4. Report on Findings
Report on the feedback and concerns raised by stakeholders during engagement sessions and outline a comprehensive plan that addresses the issues and information collected. Communicating findings and action plans will help build a level of transparency with stakeholders and reiterate your organization’s commitment to the sustainability initiatives discussed during engagement sessions.
Keep reading this blog as we discuss more details around this and other topics pertaining to sustainability reporting. In next week’s post, we will examine how to communicate and promote your sustainability report for maximum value.