Meaningful stakeholder engagement and collaboration critical to helping companies address and alleviate inequality

Week of 20 September 2021

Meaningful stakeholder engagement and collaboration critical to helping companies address and alleviate inequality

Our key takeaway: Meaningful stakeholder engagement and collaboration is the foundation to enabling business leaders to step up for social justice and equity within the communities and societies with which they engage.

The World Economic Forum, Business for Social Responsibility and the Laudes Foundation launched a report, ‘Lighthouse Action on Social Justice Through Stakeholder Inclusion’:

    • Three forms of partnerships and collaborations to address social justice and equity: Per the authors: “strong partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders, including communities, workers and civil society, are critical if we are to best achieve outcomes that address and alleviate inequality.” The report find that there are three ways in which “businesses are addressing social justice and equity through these partnerships: first, in making bold new investments targeting impacted communities in value chains; next, in influencing public policy and speaking out as corporate citizens; finally, in applying rigorous accountability practices and sharing power with workers and communities in their supply chains.” Examples of the latter include Unilever’s living-wage commitment, the Farmer Income Lab (Mars, AB InBev, Danone, Oxfam, IDH, Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming, UNDP), Patagonia’s implementation of Regenerative Organic Certification in its apparel supply chain, and the Amul Supplier Cooperative Ownership.
    • Four critical tenets of stakeholder inclusion: When reviewing company experiences, the report finds that there are “four critical tenets that are proving impactful in building corporate action on social justice through stakeholder inclusion”: (1) “Stakeholder inclusion – through recognizing, co-designing, partnering and learning with impacted stakeholders – must be at the centre of any corporate action on equity and social justice in our unequal world.” (2) Going beyond stakeholder inclusion by “positioning business on the path towards redesigning business models that shift power and value away from shareholder primacy.” (3) Taking a “holistic view on equity and social justice, in both promoting positive outcomes and addressing their specific negative effects related to inequities in their value chains.” Finally, (4) creating space for “critical dialogue and knowledge-sharing” to drive momentum beyond the current moment.
    • Recognition, co-design, partnership, and learning and accountability as key aspects in driving stakeholder inclusion: Four aspects are important for companies seeking to advance. First, companies need to recognise “systemic inequalities and stakeholders affected by both business actions and broader systemic inequalities.” They also need to work with their external stakeholders to “co-design” approaches to inclusion, through “identification, engagement and alignment of priorities to work together with impacted communities for shared value and results.” A third component is building strong partnerships with impacted communities in order to ensure this work is both “meaningful and equitable.” Finally, learning and accountability must be embedded and ongoing, via “feedback and accountability mechanisms ensuring impacted stakeholders receive maximum benefits through long-term collaborations and with mechanisms in place that ensure the company’s actions are leading to measurable progress.”

For more, see World Economic Forum, Business for Social Responsibility and Laudes Foundation, Lighthouse Action on Social Justice Through Stakeholder Inclusion (September 2021)