Stakeholder 2: Yes, I agree. I love to engage.
Stakeholder 1: So, who are you engaging with these days then?
Stakeholder 2: Well, anyone who asks, really. I'm not that fussy.
Stakeholder 1: Yes, me too. I am a pro-engagement stakeholder.
Stakeholder 3: Hi guys. How's the stakeholder engagement thing going these days? I am making a killing.
Stakeholder 1: What do you mean?
Stakeholder 3: Well, I am getting invited to offer my expert opinion for a range of companies and they pay me loads of money just to tell them what I think. That's what they call engagement these days. It doesn't matter if I use their products or services. They just want me to reply to their questions.
Stakeholder 2: But how do you give an opinion if you don't use their products?
Stakeholder 3: That's easy. I just tell them what they want to hear.
Stakeholder 1: How do you know that?
Stakeholder 3: It's what everyone says, you know, climate change is important, treating employees well is important, ethics and integrity is important, human rights are super-important. It's not rocket science, you know. I say the same things to every company.
Stakeholder 2: But why do they ask you? I have been around far longer than you and hardly anyone asks me.
Stakeholder 3: Well, maybe you told them the truth.
Stakeholder 1: You also have to remember that all stakeholders were not created equal. Stakeholder 3 is a real thought-leader. He has written a book. He speaks at conferences. People think he knows about companies even if he doesn't. They think it's good to have his name in the Sustainability Report.
Stakeholder 3: (blushing) Yes, not all stakeholders are equal. I admit that I enjoy all the fuss and attention. My kids stopped listening to me a long time ago. Now at least, someone is asking what I think.
Stakeholder 2: Well, I don't agree with this. I think companies shouldn't pick and choose their stakeholders. They should engage with ALL stakeholders and not discriminate.
Stakeholder 1: And how exactly do you propose that a company does that? Some companies have millions of stakeholders.
Stakeholder 2: SurveyMonkey.
Stakeholder 3: Oh dear. If everyone starts using SurveyMonkey, I'll need to go back to teaching at the university in order to make a living.
Stakeholder 1: Oh, I am sure it's not that bad. There will always companies be that prefer to have big names in lights.
Stakeholder 3: (blushing again) Maybe you are right. I love the lights.
Stakeholder 2: I am thinking of sectorizing myself. You know, adding Sector Expect Stakeholder to my resume. So that companies that want a sector expert will know to come to me.
Stakeholder 1: Which sector?
Stakeholder 2: All sectors. It doesn't really matter.
Stakeholder 3: That's a great plan.
Stakeholder 1: But what if there are companies that really want to know the truth? You know, really want an honest informed opinion about their material issues to inform their sustainability strategy?
Stakeholder 3: Hahahahahahhahaha now you really made me laugh.
Stakeholder 2: Hahahahahahahahaha, me too. Not in our lifetime, buddy.
Stakeholder 1: OK, OK, I was just kidding. Stakeholder engagement is here to stay. Just like we love it.
How real is stakeholder engagement? Who is actually a stakeholder? How do companies engage with stakeholders? Whats on the cards for stakeholder engagement? Is it here to stay? And if so, what does it look like?
More on this in what promises to be a kick-ass discussion live online, hosted by 2degrees on Tuesday December 9th (next week) at 15:00 GMT. Tune in to hear and engage.. yes, engage.... with Rowland Hill (Marks and Spencer Sustainability Reporting Manager), Rachel Depree, (Sky, Senior Engagement Manager), Peter Collins (RSA Insurance Group, Group Head of Corporate Responsibility) and Oliver Hurrey of 2degrees, and myself. Check it out here and register. No powerpoints. No scripts. No pressure. Just a genuine discussion and sharing of insights and opinions on what stakeholder engagement has become, what it should be and where it's going. Approximately. It should be fun. Especially if we all disagree :-)
elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting AND Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via Twitter (@elainecohen) or via my business website www.b-yond.biz (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm). Check out our G4 Report Expert Analysis Service - for published G4 reports or pre-publication - write to Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org to help make your G4 reporting even better.