Build a sustainability plan 101: identify key stakeholders

EDF Supply Chain Solutions Center

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:

  1. Who the “deciders” (they can greenlight the project) and the “do-ers” (you’ll need them to accomplish the project) are.
  2. The motivations of your do-er stakeholders.
  3. How to activate your do-er stakeholders.
EDF Supply Chain Solutions Center

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.

DivisionStakeholderStakeholder Plan Gatekeepers (Do-ers)Business Case Gatekeepers Deciders
Corporate Responsibility TeamDirectorSets the strategy and budget for the team
StaffResponsible for implementing x components of the plan
Business TeamMerchantsNeed to engage with suppliers
Research & DevelopmentMust keep suppliers accountable. Might develop specific strategy for sourcing/procurement
ComplianceResponsible for confirming fit with legal requirements
Human Resources
CommunicationsMarketingNeed to communicate the plan to external audiences
Consumer insights
Public relations
Corporate affairs
Social media
C-Suite & LeadershipBoard/OwnersMust bless the sustainability team’s course of action as it relates to the company’s overall strategy
Chief Sustainability Officer
Chief Technology OfficerApproves the budget for the sustainability plan
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Marketing OfficerWill need to endorse/approve all messaging
Chief Compliance Officer

Download and fill in the chart

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.

Supply Chain Stakeholder TypeCompanyRole and Contact InformationSustainability Plan Gatekeeprs (Do-ers)Business Gatekeepers (Deciders)
SupplierAcme: Sells Corn Flakes to RetailersJohn Campbell: Finance Director jc@acme.comResponsible for approving projects
Farmer GroupFirefly Farm Co-op: represents farmerJane Smith: Project Manager js@fireflycoop.comResponsible for implementing project with farmers
FarmerMidnight FarmsJulia Jones: Corn Farmer jj@midnightfarms.comPotential champion and spokesperson

Download and fill in the chart

EDF Supply Chain Solutions Center

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:

Active stakeholders

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.

Agnostic stakeholders

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.

Annoyed stakeholders

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.

Sustainability Plan Do-er StakeholdersAction(s) RequiredKey Relationship Questions
Stakeholder 1
Name: Richard Davies
Title: Chief Procurement Officer
Contact info:
Needs to be bought-in to engage with suppliersDescribe current relationship with this stakeholder:
One of the company’s high-level executives; I see them several times a year at company events
Assess how your relationship might be improved:
Offer an opportunity to sit down over coffee to discuss the and your sustainability plans
Assess whether this stakeholder will be open to your sustainability plan or will need convincing. What is their AAA category?
“Agnostic.” He will want to be ensured of the feasibility of the collaboration across all external stakeholders, specifically the suppliers involved
Assess whether internal politics exists:
May feel that plans have been made that normally are under their jurisdiction
Assess how your sustainability plan might align/not align with stakeholders’ values/priorities:
CPO’s may prefer working with low-cost suppliers and not care for the social/environmental factors that could alter finances several times a year at company events
Stakeholder 2
Name: Linda Smith
Title: Corporate Responsibility Team Director
Contact info:
Sets the strategy and budget for the teamDescribe current relationship with this stakeholder:
She heads my team; she is my first, primary audience. I need to make her look good
Assess how your relationship might be improved:
Sit down and discuss the similarities between CSR’s environmental goals and business goals to spark collaboration
Assess whether this stakeholder will be open to your sustainability plan or will need convincing. What is their AAA category?
“Active.” She will support sustainability vision but may be dubious of our ability for collaboration among ALL stakeholders
Assess whether internal politics exists:
She will want control over any company sustainability initiative, as those generally fall under their department
Assess how your sustainability plan might align/not align with stakeholders’ values/priorities:
We are aligned, but have different approaches on what needs to happen first. Will need to resolve this

Download and fill in the chart

Want a deeper dive on identifying key stakeholders for your interest area(s)?

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