Stakeholders guiding business sustainability strategies
The ability to capitalize on opportunity or mitigate business risk often depends on the availability and access to quality information. Being able to sift through what is important and what is not can be a determining factor in transforming a good decision into business turning point. Today’s market intelligence has expanded to include business sustainability expectations, trends and requirements. Are you listening?
With the speed of sustainability and CSR information rapidly increasing and global environmental awareness constantly expanding, it has become increasingly important for companies to leverage stakeholder input to capture and access information. Sustainability has been described as a continuous improvement process that challenges business to balance and align the shifting expectations of stakeholders with their optimal business sustainability direction. Sometimes seen as an overwhelming landscape of potential improvement, a common thread of "collaboration" can be seen through just about every potential business sustainability action.
Expanding upon this thought, the post M&A: How to Find a Sustainability Strategy that Works poses an interesting and pressing question for many of today’s executives. While the author focused on corporate cultures that facilitate a strategy, another consideration is that internal resources are not the only stakeholders with a vested interest. I offer some points of consideration in building sustainability alignment with all key business stakeholders.
- Initiate innovative idea generation and grassroots business sustainability action.
- Seek out opportunities to lower costs, initiate process improvements, and stimulate mitigate risk.
- Establish internal and external expectations for redefining products and service attributes.
- Align business sustainability expectations with supply chain partners.
Leading organizations appreciate the value in managing their key business relationships and view sustainability as a "must have" strategy for long-term business viability and success. A defining characteristic of these organizations is a recognition and response to “pressures from stakeholders.” However, at what level are stakeholders involved in the "decision-making" process of a business? Over the years, two models of stakeholder engagement have evolved. In an article by the Corporate Responsibility Officer, these models are examined in the differentiation between "consent" and "consult."
- Consult Model – Involves a transparent exchange of information among project sponsors, regulators, affected communities, and other key stakeholders.
- Consent Model - Involves sharing or transferring decision-making authority to those key stakeholders who will be directly affected.
The challenge in determining the right engagement model is determining if decision-making can be shared with affected stakeholders. Done effectively, stakeholder engagement can positively impact the outcome of business sustainability decision-making.
Julie Urlaub is the founder and managing partner of Taiga Company, a sustainability social media consulting firm, where she aids clients to powerfully engage in sustainability-related issues and stakeholder communications in the social space.
Leveraging 15 years of business development and communications expertise in the energy, medical and IT industries, she now consults, blogs, tweets and advises clients on a variety of issues related to the intersection between environmental stewardship, sustainable business practices, and the bottom-line benefits of sustainability strategies.
Leading by example, with over 25,000 Twitter followers and a blog with global reach, she works with companies to maximize sustainability strategies and to communicate how their sustainability strategies are making a difference in their business and in our world. Not only does Julie walk the talk, she rides it, too, as an endurance mountain bike racer.
image: edgenumbers via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)