Rebuilding trust through stakeholder engagement

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In the past few years CR has undergone a major surgical facelift and is no longer seen as a fluffy element of business or as an exercise in philanthropy.  As part of this transformation NGOs are now seen as partners rather than threats, public relations has become transparency, and philanthropy is simply the cost of doing business. CR has become a hard-nosed business decision that provides tangible evidence to all stakeholders that an organisation recognises the physical, regulatory, reputational and litigation risks created by its operational footprint.

Stakeholder engagement is the foundation of corporate (social) responsibility. If you are effective in your stakeholder engagement, you will open up new ways to improve your organisation's performance and reputation.

Following a series of interviews with senior practitioners at leading organisations in preparation for this feature story, there is a clear message that stakeholder engagement should be taken seriously to survive, if not thrive, in the current economic climate.

Stakeholder engagement is essential to business strategy and success since it provides important information about the evolving expectations of many of the actors who matter to the future of a company. ¨For a company like Anglo American, with large scale, immovable, long-life assets, predominantly in developing countries, stakeholder engagement is essential¨, remarked Edward Bickham, VP of Corporate Responsibility.

This view is shared by stakeholders themselves. Dax Lovegrove of WWF believes committed organisations who genuinely engage in two-way communication with their stakeholders are “future proofing” their business.  Dax in his role as Head of Business and Industry Relations helps organisations to understand the wider impacts, right across the supply chain.  He  encourages organisations to participate.  “Bring us to the table, please!”, he requested.

Dr Peter White, Director for Global Sustainability, P&G echoed Lovegrove’s comment on how effective stakeholder engagement is at the heart of future sustainable growth.  “ We want to help shape the future – now and for generations to come – by collaborating with local, regional and global stakeholders”, he commented.  “By working together through multi-stakeholder initiatives we firmly believe we can make a bigger difference together than we can individually”, he added.

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