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CSR and Sustainability

Seven proven ways to get colleagues on board with sustainability and corporate responsibility

Wayne Dunn, author of a few recent excellent pieces on stakeholder engagement, offers some thoughts for readers on that all important stakeholder group of internal executives and managers

Here’s his other recent articles that may be of interest, all highly practical:

The top five mistakes companies make in engaging stakeholders

Internal stakeholders may
be the best investment you can make in the sustainability of your stakeholder
engagement and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs!! Seriously.
We all know examples where
the people dealing with communities, stakeholders and responsibilities are
ghettoized in a corner of a project or company and not seen as part of the
‘real business’.
They are tolerated,
sometimes even encouraged, but when budgets get tight they are often squarely
in the cutting line.
Not a very sustainable
position to be in. You don’t want to be there and if that is where you are you
want to change your positioning.
Successfully engaging
internal stakeholders is key. Do it right and other parts of your organization
will recognize the important contribution your work makes to profitability,
shareholder value and their specific interests.
Drop the ball on internal
stakeholder engagement and you are likely near the front of the line the next
time cuts and downsizing happens and near the back of the line for budget
The core principles for
successfully engaging internal stakeholders are much the same as for other
stakeholder groups.
Some of them include (in no
particular order):
1) What’s in it for
them? Think of their interests
Take ‘what’s in it for me’
from top to bottom and side to side of your company through finance, human
resources, investor relations, engineering, C-suites, etc.
Think through what is in it
for them if your work is successful. How does your success help their success?
Then think through what
impact it has on them if your work fails? What happens if your project or
company loses its social license?
Think these through, make
lists and communicate them (more on that later). Keep them updated with
specific examples
2) Build allies, find
Even with your most
compelling arguments not everyone will become a raving fan of your work. But,
if you engage appropriately some will, or at least they will be overtly
Work with them. Help them
to know more about your work and what it means for their area and interests,
for the company and for other key areas.
Give them the information,
support and rationale to be a champion for you.
3) Share stories from
their peers
Stories are great for
communicating. Find some that can help you to reach internal stakeholders.
Find short, pointed stories
on how CSR/stakeholder engagement and other related areas had big impacts on
particular areas and then share them appropriately.
One of my favourites
involves a CFO of major global mining company. I met with him near the
conclusion of a project where I was doing an assessment of their social
license/CSR work in a particular geographic region they were working in.
They were doing incredible
in that region, clearly one of the best examples in the world (this was in 1999
and it is still one of the best – they were way ahead of the game).
But, the systems and
successes they realized in the region I assessed were not consistent across
their operations. They had countries and regions where they were doing little
or nothing. Big risks. And they didn’t see them.
I explained the risk to the
CFO and that if they had a problem, if something came up in those areas they
would have a hard time to respond to an agitated public and confrontational
stakeholder groups (think about making friends in the middle of a mob!)
I think he was quite happy
to see me leave his office.
About a month later the
company had a cyanide spill that, while technically not a major concern,
quickly became a major international issue for them and even for the country
they were headquartered in.
The spill happened some
distance from their mine and in a community in which they had literally zero
relationships, but one that had seen their impact and traffic for a few years. All
vehicle traffic to and from the mine passed through this community.
One can imagine how the
community felt as trucks drove through it daily, going to and from the mine and
nobody from the company ever came by, nor did they have much of a chance at
jobs or business at the minesite.
The community used the
spill to get attention, and attention they got. Suddenly there were advocacy
and special interest NGOs all over the community and the incident got a lot of
global media attention.
Share price plummeted and
the company went into emergency response. Except, they didn’t really have the
relationships with international stakeholders to mount a quick and effective
response to this situation. (think again of building relationships in a mob)
A couple of months later
when I was back at headquarters, the CFO actually asked to see me. He had been
through a pretty rough period.
As the share price tanked
the company was suddenly getting all sorts of attention it didn’t like from
investors, lenders and other financial stakeholders.
They found themselves
offside of important agreements like debt to market capitalization
Suddenly, a skeptical CFO
was a believer. The success of stakeholder engagement and CSR programs did have
real meaning and value for his job. 
4) Don’t be a do gooder.
Keep your organization’s interest paramount
Do good work but don’t be a
do gooder. Your work and the good you do is important for sure. But, so are the
interests of your company. Keep your work consciously aligned with the
interests of your company.
Always, always, keep
company’s interests at forefront. Link what you want to do to what is good for
the company or will mitigate risk for the company. Lose that link and you are
Keep that link present in
your thinking and your communications. Your company wants good work but not a
do-gooder. Same for the stakeholders you are working with.
5) Learn their language
You will be much more
effective at communicating with various internal stakeholder groups if you
‘learn their language’. Hint: Do-gooder language won’t get you very far in the
CFO’s office!
Learn enough about their
world and priorities that you can communicate with them in a way that they can
hear and that doesn’t make you seem like you’re from a foreign planet (which is
how some of them may see stakeholder engagement and CSR before you start to
educate them). 
6) Be passionate, but
not fanatical
Most of us working in CSR
and stakeholder engagement are passionate about our work. So too are many
working in other areas of your organization.
Passion is a gift. Cherish
It is perfectly fine to be
passionate about your work and the impact it is having (on stakeholders AND for
shareholders). But, don’t be fanatical about it. Passionate is constructive. Fanatical
is destructive.
This is a simple
communication skill but often can be challenging to apply, especially when
projects and initiatives feel so important.
Be conscious that there is
a fine line between passionate and fanatical and stay on the constructive side
of it.
7) Assertive humility: Humble
AND assertive
Temper all internal
stakeholder engagement with assertive humility. We’ve all seen do-gooders that
come across as ‘holier than thou’. It is a turn-off.
We’ve also seen the meek
and mild who struggle to make a point and don’t communicate effectively.
The work you are doing is
important. Very important. So is the work that others in your company are
doing. Recognize both of these realities.
Internal stakeholders are
key to the success of your work. Do not assume that they are automatically on
your side. Invest time in understanding them and their interests and why your
success supports their success.

Learn to engage and
communicate with them in effective ways and you, your work, your company and
your other stakeholders will all benefit.


Wayne Dunn and Toby Webb are leading an intensive two-day session on How to effectively engage stakeholders in frontier markets.  The program runs on Oct 30-31 in Central London.  Information and registration is available here. Eight places remain on the course from a maximum of 20 participants.

The experts taking part in this workshop have experience at working with companies such as Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, Vedanta and many others.

  • Find out how the world’s leading high impact companies engage stakeholders successfully
  • Learn how your company can get difficult engagement right, in process, in practice and on the ground
  • Discover how to make the case for more resources to senior management – and how to make that stick
  • Expert tips from your peers in a closed environment, learn from those who got it right, and wrong
Objectives & learning outcomes
The programme objective is to provide participants with insights, understanding, tools, techniques, strategies and networks that will help them and their companies to be more effective at engaging and working with stakeholders in what used to be known as emerging markets – now frontier markets.
Who attends?
The Program is designed for professionals from industry, NGOs, governments, civil society and the multi-lateral/international world. The training is cross-industry and is relevant for a  
Participants will include senior executives, those with hands on CSR roles and those new to CSR.
Learn more about the programme here. There are five places remaining.
Other upcoming Innovation Forum events in 2014:

Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends
28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.

With: Unilever, Lord Mandelson, Greenpeace, Nestle, Wilmar, TFT, ADM, Mondelez, M&S and many others 

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships

10 November, 2014, London. More details here.

With: John Lewis, ABB, Ericsson, Novartis, PUMA, the Economist, De Beers, Anglo American, Bechtel, Amnesty, Oxfam and many others.