Stakeholders, Sustainability & Your Organization

The Institute for Sustainable Development and BrownFlynn, a Cleveland-based sustainability consulting firm, joined forces this summer to better understand the intersection between stakeholder engagement and sustainability by surveying organizations on the topic. While research has been done on the topics separately, there has been very little exploration of their interaction. More than 175 organizations – including businesses, nonprofits, and governmental agencies – completed the survey. Key findings were that customers and employees are critical to engage when it comes to sustainability efforts, and perhaps surprisingly, that organizations that engage stakeholders more often also had more sustainability measures in place than those engaging stakeholders less often.

Key findings included:

  • the majority of organizations – two-thirds – engage stakeholders on at least a weekly basis
  • key drivers for engaging stakeholders are: 1) to better understand the marketplace, 2) to foster goodwill, 3) to build relationships, and 4) to learn the priorities and needs of stakeholders
  • customers were rated the most important stakeholder group overall (99% considered this group important or very important), followed by employees (95% considered this group important or very important) and then the community (85% considered this group important or very important)
  • when it came to stakeholders rated most important with regard to sustainability specifically, employees were actually rated as more important to engage than customers
  • respondents reported time, human resource capacity, and financial resources as the major barriers to stakeholder engagement
  • respondents reported first a sense of responsibility (79%) followed by the sense that sustainability is good for business (72%), then the desire to increase profits or reduce costs (58%), and finally, the desire to improve the organization’s reputation (54%) as the key motivations for implementing sustainable practices
  • the most common sustainable environmental practices implemented were: energy conservation (87%), waste reduction (85%), and sustainable purchasing practices (67%)
  • the most common sustainable social practices implemented were: community outreach (80%), followed by employee health and wellness programs (71%), and diversity/inclusion practices (69%)

The report includes case studies with Green Plus Certified businesses Chapel Hill Tire and Lube Stop.  Formally communicating with diverse stakeholders requires some effort, but can pay dividends in a strategy more aligned with with the interests of those most important to one’s organization.

The entire report is available for free; please email to receive a copy.

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