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Handling Demanding Stakeholders: Create Societal Value

By Seth Arenstein for PRNEWS

Give props to Page (Arthur W. Page Society) for its just-released report “Stakeholder Capitalism and ESG: A Guide for Communication Leaders.” It’s transparent. “This is meant to be a study guide, not a white paper,” the 58-page vehicle begins.

Just in time for Roe v. Wade and a slew of other socio-political issues vexing C-suites, one of the Guide’s goals is providing chief communication officers (CCOs) background for tackling whether or not a company should take a stand on societal issues.

Its advice on stand-taking includes:

  • most companies can’t respond to every issue
  • implement a framework for thinking about and choosing your issues
  • consider which issues you can influence with constructive change
  • think about how you will proceed when opinions of major stakeholders collide

ESG (environmental, social and governance) insights include:

  • begin with asking stakeholders, not just investors, about their ESG preferences
  • ask your large investors about ESG reporting/disclosure requirements
  • establish a cross-functional ESG team
  • develop an ESG maturity model (ie, where is the company and where does it want to be?)
  • conduct a gap analysis for creation of programming and disclosing

Yet more important than its specific advice, though, the Guide emphasizes that ESG and taking a stand (or not) on social issues are parts of a whole. The whole is a different way of doing business—one that emphasizes creating societal value.

As Page president Roger Bolton told us in an email interview, “CCOs are at the center of helping their organizations build a systematic and authentic corporate commitment to creating societal value.”

Creating societal value

In addition to taking a stand and ESG, the other part of creating societal value for Page is creating value and purpose for all stakeholders through a company’s core businesses.

Page uses the term stakeholder capitalism in the Guide instead of creating societal value.

Apart from how-to’s, advice about measurement and numerous case-study examples, the Guide offers new material. For example, it draws on the work of Page member Jon Iwata, the former IBM SVP now at Yale’s business school. His interviews since 2021 with more than 70 CCOs, board chairs and other leaders about stakeholder capitalism provide useful nuggets.

For example, few interviewees see stakeholder capitalism mainly as a moral issue. Instead, most consider it table stakes as companies battle for talent, customers, investors and partners.  For more, click here.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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