Build a sustainability plan 101: identify key stakeholders
Know who you need to succeed
When mapping a sustainability plan, one of the first tasks is to identify who in your company is responsible for relevant activities and operations. Who do you need to educate, get buy-in from, or work with to launch, implement and scale your sustainability plan?
This step is about creating a team with defined roles, and identifying and developing relationships with stakeholders.
While every company is different, gaining buy-in from a senior “champion” and from other colleagues who will be called on to participate (principally or intermittently) along the way can only improve the outcome. With key supporters and the right project team in place, your company will be well positioned to define and communicate clear responsibilities, objectives and timelines for the project.
The goal is to understand your potential problem areas, priority relationships and pathways to success as soon as possible. Essentially, this step will help you determine:
- Who the “deciders” (they can greenlight the project) and the “do-ers” (you’ll need them to accomplish the project) are.
- The motivations of your do-er stakeholders.
- How to activate your do-er stakeholders.
1. Identifying your "Decider" and "Do-er" stakeholders
Filling in this chart will help you determine, at a high level, who your decider and do-er stakeholders are, both inside your organization and in your supply chain. Be sure to think about every stakeholder. For example, if you’re focusing on agriculture, you should consider farmers and veterinarians.
TOOL: High level internal stakeholder chart
Fill in the name, title and contact information for each relevant stakeholder.
TOOL: High level supply chain stakeholder chart
Fill in the name, title and contact information for each relevant stakeholder that directly touches your focus area, either upstream or downstream from your company.
2. Understanding your "do-er" stakeholders
Once you’ve identified your stakeholders at a high level, the next step is to assess your “do-ers” on a more granular level. As with any aspect of business, relationships are everything. Since these are the people that you’ll depend upon daily to help actually implement the plan, honestly assess what your relationship with them, and how it might be improved.
It may be helpful to think about your internal stakeholders within the “AAA” categorization — the Active, Agnostic and Annoyed:
Stakeholders who ‘get’ sustainability. They will understand the business imperative for your sustainability plan and can be champions and advocates. They will likely participate in sustainability efforts in a proactive manner.
Stakeholders who are indifferent about sustainability within the company or supply chain. They may philosophically agree with sustainability, but they may not see the company’s or their individual role in enacting it. They can be convinced with a good case, and will participate in the plan if there is a directive from their leadership, or there is low risk or opportunity for them professionally.
Stakeholders who don’t see sustainability as playing a role within the company. They may or may not agree with the concept of sustainability, and may see any effort towards sustainability as a barrier to the company’s fundamental goals of providing goods and services to customers and optimizing value for shareholders. If they participate in sustainability efforts, it will likely be in a reactive, instead of a proactive manner.
3. TOOL: Activating your "do-er" stakeholders
Utilizing the do-ers in your “High level internal stakeholder chart,” ask yourself the following questions about every key stakeholder. Your goal: really understand what drives them, so they can be an ally for your plan. It’s important to realize that this is based on current assumptions, and this table should be revisited when you have new information.
Want a deeper dive on identifying key stakeholders for your interest area(s)?
Build a Plan
Build a sustainability plan 101: introduction
Build a sustainability plan 101: assess impact
Build a sustainability plan 101: ID stakeholders
Build a sustainability plan 101: set goals
Build a sustainability plan 101: objectives
Build a sustainability plan 101: ID pilot projects
Build a sustainability plan 101: the business case
Build a sustainability plan 101: pitch & launch