For many companies, sustainability is an increasingly important part of their overall business strategy. As a result, sustainability professionals work hard to track, analyze and meaningfully report on their sustainability initiatives to find new opportunities and report on progress to goals.

But with so much data at their disposal, as well as a being closely connected with that data, some find it difficult to extract the most valuable and inspiring insights to propel their efforts forward—and get stakeholders onboard.

The good news is that there’s a solution: materiality assessments.

Materiality assessments are formal engagement exercises that allow you to gain insight into what internal and external stakeholders consider the most important focal points when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. (Antea Group Recommends starting with the GRI methodology—learn more here.)

Below you’ll discover several ways to use a materiality assessment to gather meaningful insights, build relationships, and boost your sustainability strategy.

Your Stakeholders & Their Sustainability Interests

1. Engage and build rapport with key internal and external stakeholders

When you make an effort to understand the thoughts, attitudes, and ideas of your stakeholders and the respective groups they represent, you’re showing them their insights are important, valued, and welcomed. You’re giving them a voice—and materiality assessments are the mouthpiece. You’re also laying the foundation for a lasting relationship that will be key for building and executing a sustainability strategy that everyone can get behind.

2. Zero in on what is most important to stakeholders

As mentioned above, sustainability professionals track, report and analyze a wealth of data. Stakeholders will likely find interest in the handful of these data points that are most applicable to their unique concerns.

As the old adage goes, knowledge is power. Materiality assessments give you the power to understand what matters most to stakeholders, so you can communicate your sustainability strategy, and meaningfully report on results.

Leverage Stakeholder Insights to Build Your Strategy

3. Inform your strategic plan

Materiality assessments are designed to help you understand the diverse perspectives and attitudes toward sustainability across all stakeholders groups. The insights you uncover can then be directly applied to your strategic plan, helping you create tailored content, communications and plans for each group.

4. Bolster your business case for sustainability initiatives

While sustainability professionals, as well as many executive stakeholders, know sustainability can help bolster and grow a business’ bottom line, not all leaders are as easily convinced.

To win their support, you must connect sustainability with demonstrable business value and a materiality assessment can help you uncover which business objectives (i.e., revenue, cost savings, brand reputation) could make the biggest impact.

Build More Business with New Value-Adds

5. Attract new investors and bolster current investor relations.

Many companies look to outside investors to help them grow or diversify their businesses. But investors are generally most concerned with ROI, and more and more of them are seeking out ESG information through targeted inquiries or public disclosure requests like CDP.

Including current investors in your materiality assessment will help you understand what matters most to the investment community, which will help you attract new investors. Your board will also be a place to draw quality insights, allowing you to strategically craft communications about your sustainability strategy and the business ROI to be gained.

6. Enhance your ability to compellingly tell your sustainability story

Mark A. Serwinowski, president and founder of MetaVu, said it best in a 2013 interview with GreenBiz:

“The historical trend on sustainability reporting was ‘less is more.’ That is, if you’re not prepared with a positive impact story, say nothing. In today’s fast-moving, social media-driven markets, real, substantive content is fundamental. From the stakeholder perspective, telling your sustainability story and the progress of your journey is a strength. To investors, it’s a proxy statement of management quality; to customers, it informs choice and brand loyalty; and to public institutions and communities, it’s table stakes for establishing or maintaining a company’s social license to operate.”

The bottom line? Materiality assessments give you the insights and direction to craft a personal, compelling narrative that showcases your commitment to making a difference, and ensuring your investors and stakeholders are on board with your long term vision.

To learn more about the necessary steps for conducting a materiality assessment, read 7 Basic Steps for Conducting a Success Materiality Assessment.

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