ISO 26000 Tips: First, Your Stakeholders
These are some of the questions that most companies, especially small and medium ones, pose themselves when they consider implementing a sustainability strategy. Of course, other questions will arise as well, especially related with costs and payback. However, doubts about how to start the process and which are the first steps that need be taken are some kind of existential doubt that always come up.
The guide ISO 26000 is a very useful tool for small and medium entreprises (SME) willing to commit themselves to corporate sustainability and responsibility. It offers a variety of hints on how to deploy the process.
One good piece of advice from the ISO 26000 is that a company should know who its stakeholders* are, as a first step prior to identifying relevant matters that need be addressed by the company.
*Basically, a stakeholder is everyone affected by the activities of our company: suppliers, employees, customers, shareholders, NGOs, the local community etc.
What is our reach? Which stakeholders are within this reach?
Identifying its stakeholders becomes the first milestone of a company’s way tos sustainability. Knowing who is affected by our impacts will let us know which issues need our special attention.
It requires a certain exercise of introspection by which we will analyse our internal and external relationships, as well as the impacts of our activities on others. This is a great self-knowledge tool that will not only help us set priorities, but also detect new business opportunities that might have been ignored so far.
How can we identify our stakeholders?
- We can check our activities by department, identifying each departemt’s stakeholders. For example, our purcahsing department has relationsips with suppliers, our sales department with customers and so on.
- We could also analyse our products life cycle, from product design to market launching and waste management, and considering as well those stakeholders affected at any point along the supply chain (maybe hidden in some remote place far away).
- You can also check how the company dealt with this issue in the past and build on that.
The advantage of stakeholder mapping as a step prior to implementing our sustainability strategy are the following:
- It is the best way to know where we are and whom we are playing with in our organisation.
- Identifying our stakeholders and being ready for their demands will open the gates to new business opportunities.
- Stakeholder mapping helps prioritise and focus on those groups of particular relevance for our organisation. After all, our resources are limited, especially if we are a SME, and we need to focus on the essential.
- Stakeholder analysis is the best way to avoid ignoring groups such as NGOs or communities that, even though they are not formal part of our organisation’s circles of action, are nevertheless affected by our activities.
Definitely, stakeholder mapping is one of the most valuable tips from the guide ISO 26000. It is probably the first step every company has to take on its roadmap towards corporate responsibility, right after having defined its strategy, and probably overlapping with other important steps, such as finding which issues are relevant to our company.