Before you start considering the detail of any ESG commitments, you may want to pause to consider your key stakeholders.
Increasingly businesses are recognising a need to be accountable to all stakeholders and in some instances companies are even changing their corporate governance structures to give this need an added legal status. Some readers may be interested in the In Focus – below – on this topic.
While we are not suggesting that you need to reimagine your corporate governance structures, it might be valuable to take some time to consider your stakeholders, particularly when assessing ESG risks and opportunities. But, where do you start?
In focus: Building the B-Corp Movement – what’s it all about?
B Corp is a non-profit network looking to transform the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet.
Based on a belief that the current economic system, driven by business as one of its key actors, is failing to meet its potential and a promise
to create positive impact, B Corps imagine a world where all stakeholders — not just shareholders/owners — are valued and prioritised.
For further information, visit the B Corporation website.
One of the ways that they do so is through the B Corp Certification process; a designation that a business is meeting
high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits
and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.
Step 1 – Understanding your business and its stakeholders
1.i) The stakeholders that are relevant to your business
These could be a mix of internal and external parties which could impact or could be affected by your business. Examples include employees, contractors, suppliers (including insurers and other capacity providers) and customers.
2.ii) Think about the positive and negative factors or conditions that might impact your stakeholders
Consider whether you may need to discuss such factors with them. In the first instance:
- Consider external factors related to legal, technological, competitive, market, cultural, social and economic environments, whether international, national, regional or local
- Consider their internal context related to values, culture, knowledge, and your performance
You might benefit from monitoring and periodically reviewing information about stakeholders (a little like a SWOT analysis).
Step 2 – Understanding the needs of your stakeholders
While developing your business plans, it might be useful to consider the various needs and expectations of your identified stakeholders and evaluate the consequences if these needs and expectations are not met.
For example, if you find that your employees expect you to support them on career progression or on mental health, then it would be useful to engage with them while considering developing your annual plans which will include learning and development actions and or mental wellbeing workplace support.
You might benefit from monitoring and periodically reviewing relevant information about your stakeholders.
Step 3 – Identify the best mode of engagement with each stakeholder
Depending on the resources you have, you might want to consider engaging with stakeholders in one or more of the following ways.
- Host discussions in small groups to gather information on ESG topics that could be material to them. This is ideal for engaging employees, suppliers, and key customers.
- Ask them to complete a short survey after sharing information about your desire to include stakeholder expectations into business planning.
- Engage with individuals (external or internal) who you know are able to represent various stakeholder groups.
More information about ways if engaging with your stakeholder is in Section 6, dealing with Materiality Assessments.