Ensure you start your next conversation on the right foot by using accurate terminology and our golden rule. No matter your level of experience, it’s helpful to revisit the basics of stakeholder engagement. If you’ve been working with stakeholders and rightsholders, this will serve as a reminder on how the space is continuously changing.
A stakeholder is an individual or group that affects, or can be affected by, an organization’s operations or overall performance. Stakeholders have the potential to influence project outcomes in both positive and negative ways. They can be groups that are internal or external to an organization. Examples of stakeholders can include customers, suppliers, government, shareholders, employees, NGOs, local communities, industry groups, land owners and other interested or influential parties.
Stakeholder cannot be used as a blanket term to include both stakeholders and rightsholders. It is important (and respectful) to distinguish between the two. For example, Indigenous Peoples are rights and titleholders who hold internationally recognized human rights. This includes legislation and key instruments such as UNDRIP and guidelines on land tenure (1).
Rightsholders share many of the same characteristics as stakeholders. However, rightsholders have constitutional rights that are protected and enforceable by law. For example, in Canada, the Supreme Court has confirmed that Indigenous title holders have the “right to use, control, and manage the land and the right to the economic benefits of the land and its resources”(2).
What is Stakeholder Engagement?
Stakeholder engagement is the process an organization uses to actively engage, understand, and include their stakeholders and rightsholders in business decisions. The objective of stakeholder engagement is to improve communications and provide a platform for all stakeholders to be heard. Active engagement encourages an open dialogue to discuss corporate operations and project impacts. This helps develop lasting relationships and offers long-term project benefits – for all parties involved.
When engaging with individuals or groups, an organization has an opportunity to identify project risks and make more sustainable business decisions. With the increasing focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), stakeholder engagement creates transparency and gives an organization the opportunity to respond proactively to issues and concerns.
The Golden Rule
Our rule is simple – engage with people thoughtfully and be transparent. How do you create fair and meaningful relationships? By being fair and meaningful. Start by listening and learning from the people that your operations impact the most. The goal is to break down communication barriers and build trust.
Stay Dedicated & Committed
Organizations that engage thoughtfully will have several long-term advantages:
- The ability to learn from stakeholders to improve operations.
- Ensuring compliance and maintaining their social license to operate.
- Ability to mitigate risk, improve reputation, and increase the odds of long-term stability.
Thoughtful engaging has the ability to maximize project benefits. `In many cases, a project’s construction cycle is fairly short, but early identification of opportunities in training and education can allow for long-term employment. For example, Voisey’s Bay started training locals early during operations. Today, most mining and lab technicians on site are Indigenous.
Make Engaging your Competitive Advantage
Effective stakeholder engagement is becoming a critical pillar in ESG. Developing strong partnerships supports long-term growth and helps maintain your social license to operate. Using technology to ensure that you are engaging efficiently with rightsholders and stakeholders is becoming the standard.
NetBenefit Software is a tool that allows organizations to maximize the impact of their engagement plan by drastically reducing the time spent on admin and documentation. Automated email logging and communication tracking ensures compliance with minimal effort and real-time reporting provides accurate data for better decisions.
Regardless of the maturity of your stakeholder engagement program, or the tools that you use to be effective, always remember to engage thoughtfully and remain transparent.