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Preventing Stakeholders From Ruining Your Sustainability Efforts

Preventing Stakeholders From Ruining Your Sustainability Efforts

In this article, we’ll review why stakeholders are important, how they could impact your company’s sustainability efforts, and how to prevent them from doing so.
people discussing in an office

Over the past year, from devastating wildfires in Hawaii to and massive floods in Russia, people have started to see the negative impact of climate change firsthand like never before – which has elicited people to start shifting gears and become more serious about climate change.

Stakeholders are an essential part of any business, but how can your company ensure that your stakeholders don’t get in the way of your sustainability efforts?

In this article, we’ll review why stakeholders are important, how stakeholders could impact your company’s sustainability efforts, and how to prevent your stakeholders from ruining your sustainability plans.

What are stakeholders and why are they important?

Stakeholders refer to the people who are either involved or impacted by a company’s current business endeavors, ergo the term “stakeholders” to represent people who have “stake”, or some type of involvement or relation to the project in question.

Think of planning a road trip with your friends – the car company you choose to rent from and friends you choose to travel with would all be considered stakeholders in your roadtrip. The same goes for businesses, as anyone from surrounding communities to research institutions associated with your product or service could be considered stakeholders.
what is a stakeholder?

Examples of stakeholders could include:

  • Local communities 
  • NGOs
  • Indigenous people 
  • Media outlets
  • Suppliers
  • Investors

Stakeholders are important because they can have a direct influence on a project. For instance, if investors aren’t happy with the product or service – they won’t continue to invest more money into the company. If locals aren’t happy with how production for your company’s product impacts their daily lives, such as contributing to nearby air pollution, they could boycott the company altogether. 

👉 Therefore, it’s imperative to keep your stakeholders both informed and engaged regarding your current company activities – as stakeholders have the power to deter your business plans and even sustainable efforts from being successful.

people shaking hands

Why is stakeholder engagement important for sustainability?

Stakeholder engagement is important for sustainability as stakeholders are paramount to ensure that new corporate sustainability initiatives are well implemented. Therefore, seeking to involve your stakeholders can help to make certain that all sustainability efforts are understood by all third parties.

Think of trying to incorporate a new routine within a group. It is important for not only the group leaders to understand the new initiatives, but for all of the members of the group to comprehend and want to implement those changes as well. The same goes for essential stakeholders in your organization.

Here are a few more reasons why stakeholder engagement is important to develop your company’s sustainability strategy:

  • Identify Key Issues – Engaging with stakeholders is crucial to ensure your company remains up-to-date regarding ESG issues and how to develop your sustainability efforts accordingly. 
  • Practice Greater Trust & Transparency – Informing your stakeholders on the importance of adhering to sustainable efforts can help to cultivate trust and illustrate a genuine commitment to enforcing eco-friendly change. 
  • Incite New Collaboration – Seeking to include your stakeholders in your sustainable efforts could ignite the opportunity for new ideas, and ultimately lead to further sustainable innovations to be implemented in the future. Remember, your stakeholders may be able to come up with new sustainable practices your company would’ve never considered alone!
  • Improve Brand Image & Reputation – Working to engage your stakeholders can help to build a better brand reputation for future customers, investors, and even future stakeholders – all of which can help both your financial and sustainable endeavors to grow.

👉 Overall, stakeholder engagement is important for sustainability given the outside expertise and new ideas that your stakeholders could provide to your business – helping to further push your sustainable initiatives.

business men shaking hands

How could stakeholders impact your sustainability efforts?

There are several ways in which stakeholders could impact your company’s efforts to implement greater sustainability, such as by refusing to invest in your brand, lack of materials from suppliers, or lack of trust from consumers.

Stakeholders don’t only have the power to determine the financial success of your business, but also the influence to sway if your current sustainability efforts will be successful – as their cooperation is essential for your sustainable initiative to prove effective.

Some additional ways that your stakeholders could have an impact on your sustainability efforts include:

  • Refusal to Provide Funding – Some of your stakeholders, such as government agencies or non-profit organizations, may not be willing to provide your company with the funding it needs to implement your sustainable initiatives. This could prevent your business from going green at the rate you had previously planned. 
  • Environmental Regulations – Stakeholders involved with the government may have more stringent expectations in terms of current environmental regulations, meaning – they may expect your company to go above and beyond what is currently required. This could pressure your company to implement sustainability efforts at an overzealous pace that can’t be maintained.  
  • Impact via Technology & Research – Research institutions will often aim to share their findings with companies to help them develop the most relevant sustainability strategy possible. However, some academic institutions may not be able to provide that information right away – making it difficult for companies to curate their sustainability strategy accordingly. In this case, technology could help to share this information faster and ensure relevancy.
  • Locals & Indigenous People – Think back to the Keystone Pipeline: the majority of its controversy became social and ethical. Even if your company has a new sustainable idea in mind, it could serve as a nuisance to locals – and could ultimately hinder your business from moving forward with your once-flawless sustainable idea.
  • New Consumer Interests – Just as it’s important to ensure your investors are interested in your sustainable ideas, customers should be on board, too – as this is likely to be the primary source of revenue for your business and the deciding factor if future funding will be available for future sustainable efforts. On the flip side, consumers could encourage your business to develop new sustainable initiatives and prove supportive in the process.
  • Potential or Failed Partnerships – Working together could help to cultivate even stronger sustainable habits, but if one partner isn’t in agreement with the current terms or ideas – companies will then be left to scramble and fulfill their sustainable initiatives alone. This means that these stakeholders could make-or-break certain sustainable initiatives. 

👉 Ultimately, stakeholders have the ability to influence the direction of your sustainability initiatives as a result of their own individual preferences and actions – making it crucial to communicate your current and future sustainability goals with stakeholders.

person giving a sticky note presentation

How can your company better communicate sustainability matters to your stakeholders?

There are several ways that your company can prevent your stakeholders from getting in the way of achieving your sustainability goals, but the most effective way to ensure your stakeholders don’t get in the way of your sustainability efforts is to practice good communication.

One of the best ways to ensure that your stakeholders don’t implicate your current sustainability efforts is to remain proactive and provide as much information in advance as possible.

Here are some ways to implement better communication methods regarding sustainability with your stakeholders:

  • Practice Transparency – Your stakeholders can better accommodate to your sustainability plans if you remain consistent and honest, such as by sharing frequent public reports in addition to having personal conversations on how your sustainability efforts may impact stakeholders.
  • Be Personable & Show Empathy – Let’s say that your company is looking to build a new, more sustainable office – but in the meantime, the construction will inconvenience nearby residents. Remember to express empathy to show those who will potentially be impacted that your business understands it is disruptive, and then iterate how it will benefit them in the long run.
  • Provide Visuals – Did you know that around 65% of people are visual learners? Therefore, it’s helpful to provide your stakeholders with visuals for your sustainability plans, as this will help them to better understand your goals and how it will impact them.
  • Tailor Your Message for Each Stakeholder – Oftentimes, businesses will prepare a “speech”, much like someone looking for a job prepares a standard cover letter – but sometimes we forget to tailor our communications to the individual audience. It’s important to discuss the most relevant points to each stakeholder to ensure they are well informed about your sustainability initiatives, as this can help to make sure they do not do anything to jeopardise your company’s success. 

💡 It’s important to make sure your conversations with your stakeholders are personalised to ensure effective communication.

people discussing at a table

How can your company encourage stakeholders to support your sustainability strategy?

It’s one thing to inform your stakeholders about your sustainability goals, but it’s another thing to gain their support. Luckily, it’s possible – such as by working to understand their needs and involving them in the decision making process.

If your company plays your cards right, you may not only be able to prevent your stakeholders from getting in the way of your sustainability efforts – but you could get your stakeholders to help support your sustainability strategy.

Some ways to get your stakeholders involved with your sustainability strategy include:

  • Remaining open to their feedback, suggestions, and offers to use their resources in the process of developing a new sustainability strategy;
  • Seeking multiple ways to communicate your sustainability efforts besides a traditional conversation, such as with blog posts, videos, podcast, and more;
  • Highlighting and rewarding the accomplishments and benefits of your stakeholders and how your sustainability journey would not have been possible without their support;
  • Sharing success stories of previous stakeholders that contributed to previous sustainability projects with your current stakeholders for both peace of mind and to motivate them to contribute to the cause at hand;
  • Find new ways to make your sustainability journey relevant to your stakeholders to spur greater participation.

Overall, your stakeholders have exceptional sway over your company’s sustainability efforts – meaning it is imperative to ensure they fully understand what is at “stake” for them, and to pontificate how your sustainability initiatives could benefit them as well.

What About Greenly?

If reading this article on if sustainable countries already exist has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. We offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalised assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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