Engaging Sustainability – value by engagement

CollaborationWhilst sustainability has long been synonymous with the environment, there is growing awareness that socio-economic factors also have an essential part to play.  This is underlined by stakeholder engagement requirements within:

Furthermore, the Portas Review of December 2011, has also surmised that capital investment follows a process of establishing socio-economic value through stakeholder engagement.  Meanwhile, social-economic factors increasingly feature in corporate agendas such as Sainsbury’s 20 by 20×20/ and M&S’s Plan A

A lack of Engagement

Despite policy and legislation seeking to encourage and even require stakeholder engagement, there seems to be little real indication of stakeholder engagement taking place during the brief development stages of a project to anywhere near the level one would expect.  As a consequence, the brief development process and the then socio-economic value of projects suffer.  Why is this?  I would venture to suggest the reason for this is due to many organisations struggling to put stakeholder engagement processes into place because of a fear of losing control, use of over simplistic tick-box processes and previous experience of poor consultation processes, that failed to:

  • clarify roles and manage expectations,
  • progress from ice breaking exercises,
  • approach third parties at the right time (either too soon or late ),
  • engage internal duty-holders and seek external expert  advice,
  • pose relevant questions and gather relevant information

Nevertheless, brief development processes really need to offer a client the opportunity for stakeholder engagement which addresses clients’ business aims, legislative responsibilities and external assessment criteria whilst affirming project managers as “gate-holder” and then manages stakeholder expectations. 

 Sustainable Engagement

It is arguable that there is more than one approach to stakeholder engagement, however I advocate a process managed by a facilitator, and comprising of four stages:

  1. Exploratory meeting(s) with the client contact / project manager, based on a pre-prepared sector relevant package.  This meeting would be an opportunity to explain the process and overcome any anxieties.  Before moving onto the next stage there would be opportunity for experts to brief project managers and to tailor the engagement package. 
  2. Specialist consultants and the client’s own internal duty holders meeting so as to establish an organisational consensus as to the way ahead. 
  3. Sharing thoughts with third party stakeholders and identify any matters for further consideration.
  4. Providing feedback and reviews via gate, duty and third party stakeholders sequentially.

Improved brief development processes, through stakeholder engagement, are anticipated to reduce time wasted by inadequate briefs and late changes, reduce liabilities and achieve a better, and therefore a more sustainable result.

If you are interested in engaging stakeholders, then please contact Steve Maslin

The Sustainability Blog category compilation can be found here