When it comes to CSR practices, stakeholder engagement can seem about as cutting edge as bread and butter. True, some companies like Starbucks, which is crowdsourcing new product ideas through its “My Starbucks Idea” social media platform, are showing leadership in identifying and holding discussions with diverse stakeholder groups. But just as many companies are struggling to build the basics of engagement and appropriately respond to increasing pressure.
This is happening in part because stakeholder engagement is part of the CSR basics. It has become such a norm that companies complete it to tick a box rather than endeavoring to understand what engagement specifically means to them. Managers charged with stakeholder engagement are also feeling pressure created by social media. More voices clamoring in more outlets for more attention is changing the reasons companies engage, how they engage, and with whom they engage.
The resulting story is all too common: Companies feel the increasing external pressure and recognize that they must engage, but blindly sign on to an engagement method without questioning their understanding of it, or their intent in using it. They mistakenly place stakeholder engagement in the outreach buckets of public relations or communications. They struggle to relate engagement to their core business activities and have difficulty building internal awareness and interest. When the time comes to map stakeholders, they talk only to those they know or to those who speak loudest. And even if they succeed in gathering information from these stakeholders, they have difficulty transforming it into business intelligence.
To help companies get back to the basics, we have published this report to guide internal discussions on tools and approaches to stakeholder engagement. Use this document as a starting point when approaching stakeholder engagement for the first time, or as a refresher when revising a current engagement strategy.
Thought leaders and influencers from government, civil society, and the private sector play an important role in creating and maintaining business value. As their influence evolves, companies must take a strategic and structured approach to stakeholder relations. BSR has developed a five-step approach to show how corporations can initiate and sustain constructive relationships over time and throughout their organization, creating shared value by engaging early and often.