Leveraging Stakeholder Engagement to Develop Sustainability Strategies

As organizations begin to develop more nuanced sustainability programs that require the involvement of key stakeholders, such as tenants and employees, the challenge of how to engage these groups becomes more relevant. Whether implementing a short-term initiative, an event at a building, or a more comprehensive program across the entire organization, engaging stakeholders can help identify and prioritize opportunities, develop solutions, mitigate risks and create value.

Step 1: Prepare

Successful stakeholder engagement will help build the relationships and trust necessary to develop and implement corporate sustainability strategies and programs. Leveraging expertise from all levels of the organization creates strategic, value-driven, and impactful change. The following steps are intended to provide guidance to engage stakeholders and encourage their participation a small-scale initiative, or a robust sustainability strategy.

  • Identify stakeholders. Stakeholders serve as a valuable resource to inform sustainability goals and organizational capabilities. Identify internal and external stakeholders that will need to be involved. They can include decision makers, sustainability staff, operations, property managers, asset managers, consultants, and more. Identify individuals that make decisions, provide critical insight and approvals.
  • Align the organization’s sustainability goals with those of the key stakeholders. By undergoing a materiality assessment and stakeholder interviews, an organization can begin to understand why sustainability topics are important to stakeholder groups. This process helps the most important initiatives float to the top and will make sustainability programming more strategic.
  • Understand the goal. Whether you are hosting an event to engage tenants, developing a zero-waste program in the building, developing sustainability goals at the corporate level, or implementing any other type of program, having a measurable and concise goal for each initiative or program will create clear messaging and understanding among everyone involved in the program. Once goals have been determined, focus on metrics that can quantify the progress towards these goals and create a baseline.
  • Prior to reaching out to stakeholders, conduct preliminary research to understand their goals and priorities and how the program can help achieve them. Research can also help further your understanding of their capabilities and potential resources they can provide. Stakeholders may not be familiar with sustainability and its benefits, so be sure to communicate in a way that aligns with what you know about their work.
  • Meet with Stakeholders. Schedule a meeting with stakeholders to communicate the event, initiative, or program. Formulate a list of strategic questions tailored to each stakeholder to collect all the required information, and ensure the time is used effectively. Then, reach out to stakeholders in a concise format that outlines the objectives, and how you can work together. Finally, develop a brief overview that clearly outlines objectives and benefits to your organization. Think strategically, and convey the program in a way that demonstrates measurable results.

Step 2: Engage

  • Once the goals are outlined, stakeholders identified, and research and preparation complete, approach the stakeholder engagement meeting with confidence. Convey they are a valued partner and critical to the success of what you aim to achieve.
  • Communicate the value of sustainability efforts to align with the broader corporate goals and commitments. Demonstrate how their participation can contribute to their own goals and create positive value for the organization.
  • Ask questions and listen to feedback.

Step 3: Follow Up

  • Evaluate and respond to stakeholder feedback. Address any questions or concerns.
  • Integrate feedback where appropriate, and work together towards implementing the sustainability event, initiative, or strategy.

Stakeholder engagement is a continuous process. Often during the follow up phase, opportunities are identified to re-engage with stakeholders for deeper sustainability initiatives. With the appropriate preparation, feedback, and implementation plan your organization can effectively and successfully achieve its sustainability goals.
This article is written by Jordan Chan, Sustainability Analyst at CodeGreen Solutions.

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