Have you ever heard of the NGO Accountability’s AA1000 Stakeholder engagement standard?
Standards can be intimidating (and dull to read!), but it’s a fact that we all need standardization because it provides safety and reliability.
As you may know, stakeholder engagement is crucial to an organization’s performance and essential for a good sustainability management.
However, for stakeholder engagement to be useful, it needs to be designed and implemented in a credible way.
That’s where a standard becomes handy. It ensures that you are working the best way you can. It gives you confidence in your work and legitimates your actions.
It helps you understand the difference between a good-quality and poor-quality engagement.
And what are the benefits of a good-quality stakeholder engagement?
- It builds social and relationship capital
- It contributes to your license to operate
- It’s a source of innovation and new partnerships
- It drives strategic value as well as operational excellence
- It leads to more equitable and sustainable social development
- It enables better risk and reputation management
Accountability’s AA1000 Stakeholder engagement standard is quite simple and easy to read. It establishes the benchmark for good-quality engagement and provides practical guidance.
So, to begin the new year, I read the standard and made a little summary of what you need to know about it.
Here are the key pointers of the Accountability’s AA1000 Stakeholder engagement standard.
Accountability’s AA1000 Stakeholder engagement standard – Introduction 101
First, it’s important to mark down some terms used by Accountability.
For instance, they give a rather explicit definition of good quality stakeholder engagement:
- Cleary defines its scope
- Has an agreed decision-making process
- Focuses on issues material to the organization and its stakeholders
- Creates opportunities for dialogue
- Integral to organizational governance
- Flexible and responsive
- Creates value for both the organization and its stakeholders
Stakeholder engagement must be embedded in the culture and core functions of an organization. To achieve this, you have to commit to the Accountability Principles that are:
- Inclusivity: “The participation of stakeholders in developing and achieving an accountable and strategic response to sustainability.”
- Materiality: “Determining the relevance and significance of an issue to an organization and its stakeholders. A material issue influences the decisions, actions, and performance of an organization or its stakeholders.”
- Responsiveness: “An organization’s response to stakeholder issues that affect its sustainability performance, and are realized through decisions, actions, and performance, as well as communication with stakeholders.”
With no surprise, the key to success is that you must integrate stakeholder engagement into your organization’s governance, structure, and relevant decision-making processes. Furthermore, managers should at least always be informed by the issues related to stakeholder engagement.
Successful engagement depends on understanding of the purpose, the scope, and the stakeholders
Successful engagement depends on understanding why an organization is engaging (the purpose), what issues to engage on (the scope) and who needs to be involved in the engagement (ownership, mandate, stakeholders)
The purpose should be connected to the overall strategy and operations of the organization. It should be reviewed all along the process and adjusted based on the input received from stakeholders.
The scope is defined by figuring out:
- The subject matter
- The parts of the organization and associated activities, products and services concerned
- The time frame it will address
Finally, identifying stakeholders relevant to the purpose is obviously fundamental.
4 stages of a successful stakeholder engagement process
Having established the purpose, the scope and who your stakeholders are, your organization needs to ensure that there is a good stakeholder engagement process in place.
Accountability offers a 4-stage process:
Thus, you can see in the figure that two of the components are: Identifying stakeholders and Profiling and mapping stakeholders.
If you need help with these steps Sarah introduced in our latest blog article a 4-step approach to making sure you identify key stakeholders.
Furthermore, when you make your engagement plan, you need to decide the methods used to approach stakeholders. The AA1000 Stakeholder engagement standard gives an interesting decision tree determining engagement methods based on the nature and extent of stakeholder involvement.
You should as well establish indicators in your plan. Indicators are essential because they allow you to evaluate the progress, identify areas for improvement and demonstrate the added value of engaging with stakeholders to your boss, clients or board of directors.
When you prepare your next actions in regard to stakeholder relations, one thing crucial is to identify engagement risks. You will be able to make better quality decisions and anticipate potential negative outcomes.
Implement and act
This step is where the action begins! There are simple rules to follow in order to succeed on the field like keeping a database with all stakeholder communications, brief materials, and other necessary documents.
Review and improve
Stakeholder engagement is a process, not an event or a one-off exercise. You should formalize the improvement process in order to optimize future activities. The results (reports) need to be communicated to employees, stakeholders, clients, and media.
At the end of the year, are you able to gather all your information and easily publish it? Boréalis can help you register, plan, define, centralize and track stakeholder data, and so much more! Contact us today.
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