Five key points about stakeholder advisory panels, groups and boards

I recently finished a piece of research for a large company on external stakeholder advisory groups.

The final report, all 8000 words of it, is of course confidential to the client.

But what I can share with you are some of the (alas by no means all) key findings from the research, which are below.

We interviewed 15 or so leading experts and did quite a bit of secondary research alongside the primary.

Here's a few high level nuggets from the work below.

You may not be very surprised by most of them but sometimes it's just nice to have what you thought, backed up by proper research.

Stakeholder advisory groups and panels, some key points:

1. They are used by leading companies

  • The companies interviewed and studied are all recognised leaders in the field
  • These firms, and the experts we interviewed who study them, have spent some years refining their processes
  • Their usage seems to be rising as companies look to better manage risk and consider social and environmental related opportunities 

2. The business case is clear

  • Much deeper insights into structural and reputational risk and future trends by: Establishing meaningful dialogue to consider where the world is heading (for example, upcoming short, medium and long term changes in the operating environment)
  • A broader audience for critical decision making 
  • An ongoing demonstration that the company understands the importance of accountability to stakeholders 
  • A method of spotting new business opportunities, now and in the future 

3. There is not one size fits all solution

  • Some companies have general boards
  • Some focus only on reporting feedback
  • Others combine both: Receiving feedback on general strategy and risk issues AND on specifics such as reporting or more technical issues, such as water or nutrition

4. Process and selection is important

  • Companies and NGOs think differently: Understanding different perspectives is crucial
  • The process must suit the participants but be owned by the company
  • Timescales and turnover matter: Stakeholder engagement is a long term strategy, but stakeholders should not be too comfortable as the quality of their inputs may suffer 

5. But the benefits outweigh the risks

  • The business case is clear despite some risks to business through stakeholder engagement
  • Companies who want to be leaders are so far those who engage in this process
  • But it is clear any company with a global footprint and even national sourcing and operations risk can benefit for feedback
  • Regulatory/disclosure drivers are increasing 

My company, Innovation Forum, alongside our events on deforestation, business and human rights and stakeholder engagement, also provides research, stakeholder engagement, and training services. Contact me if you are interested in knowing more about these on tobias.webb AT innovation-forum.co.uk.

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