Discover six helpful tips for engaging stakeholders in a way that will help drive your EHS and sustainability initiatives forward.

As environment, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability become more intertwined with a company’s overall business strategy, EHS&S teams are finding that success takes more than resources and good management - it also requires smart stakeholder engagement.

From C-suite executives to employees to customers, the different stakeholder groups affected by your EHS and sustainability initiatives also have the power to influence the success of your initiatives. That’s where stakeholder engagement comes in.

When managed effectively, stakeholder engagement helps you build rapport, strengthen communication, gain useful insights and ideas, and mobilize groups to participate in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace and world.

While the concept of stakeholder engagement is easy to embrace, implementing an effective program requires effort—backed by strategy and dedication. To help guide and improve your stakeholder engagement process, here are six valuable stakeholder engagement tips.

1. Identify key internal and external stakeholders

When it comes to identifying key stakeholders, seek out individuals and groups that are critical to the success of your initiatives. Take into account both internal influencers (i.e., executive leadership, directors, regional managers, employees) and external contacts (i.e., trade associations, key customers, NGOs). This 360° approach guarantees a broad range of perspectives.

Also consider how each individual or group aligns with your specific initiatives. For example, if you want to launch a new emergency response program, your security team is an important stakeholder group to engage early on in the planning process.

2. Define your goals

An important first step in stakeholder engagement is determining why you’re doing it and what you hope to accomplish. Take time at the beginning of your program to define your stakeholder engagement goals. Once defined, use these goals to guide your efforts and measure your progress. To get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does successful engagement look like? (What do I hope to receive from my stakeholders? What actions do I want them to take?)
  • How will I grow stakeholder relationships in the future?
  • How do these engagements relate to larger EHS and sustainability goals?

3. Give yourself enough time to engage in a meaningful way         

Stakeholder engagement is time consuming—especially in the beginning. Reach out to potential stakeholders in the early stages of development to set the stage and request their involvement.

Based on your knowledge of each stakeholder, choose the most effective way to communicate—email, phone or an in-person meeting. In addition, keep your pitch as brief as possible while still conveying all essential details. Express to each stakeholder why his or her unique insights are valuable.

4. Show off your passion

To energize stakeholder support and buy-in, demonstrate your enthusiasm, accessibility and dedication. If you’re an EHS and sustainability leader who is genuinely passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish with your EHS and sustainability initiatives, your passion will be contagious—and stakeholders will want to be part of it.

5. Recognize stakeholder contributions

In productive workplaces, positive feedback is a mainstay of high performing teams. Be sure to acknowledge the stakeholder collaborations, insights and contributions that have moved your initiatives forward. Recognizing their participation not only reinforces your appreciation, but also creates the foundation for a long-lasting relationship.

6. Keep your stakeholder connections hot

Stakeholder engagement shouldn’t end once a program launches. Communicate regularly with stakeholders to maintain and grow the relationship. Whether it’s a quick email to check in or a monthly meeting to discuss a program’s progress, if you stay engaged they will, too.

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