Company transparency with stakeholders

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Active and constructive dialogue with stakeholders will improve how a company implements its business strategy, help set priorities and help understand the needs of the societies in which a company operates. Stakeholder engagement is a two-way communication where both parties (the company and the stakeholder) can learn from the experience and knowledge of the other.


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"We are committed to nourishing each stakeholder relationship as each and every relationship is important to us. Successful stakeholder engagement requires a commitment to actively engage with stakeholders, listening to them and then responding to their concerns in a mutually beneficial way,' says Lulu Khumalo, Executive: Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at Pioneer Foods.
It is important to keep stakeholders up-to-date on a company?s actions and opinions through a variety of channels, such as annual reports, corporate and local websites, responding to emails and a host of other publications and events as this will evidence both clarity and transparency. "Open and timely disclosure with all stakeholders and regular communication is maintained at Pioneer Foods using various methods of communication to keep our stakeholders informed, such as events taking place, vacant positions available, information about the business, industry matters and any other relevant news,' adds Khumalo.
Stakeholder feedback is also important in that it helps a company to identify and assess its social, environmental and ethical risks and opportunities.

Influence

Stakeholders have the ability to influence the success or failure of the business at various levels. Khumalo says that a primary objective of corporate stakeholder engagement is to generate a better knowledge and understanding of stakeholder perspectives on key issues at hand and consequently, build relations with key individuals. Over time, more tangible business value can be realised from these relationships.
Hence Pioneer Foods encourages shareholders to attend its general meetings and also provides a full explanation of the effects of resolutions to be proposed. The results of all decisions taken at shareholders? meetings are disseminated by way of written minutes to ensure that all shareholders are timeously informed.

Challenges

To successfully engage with stakeholders, there are many challenges however they are small in comparison to the risks of failing to engage external stakeholders in a timely and strategic manner. For companies looking to actively manage their reputations and brands and for leaders committed to actively listening not only in the marketplace but in society more broadly, knowing how to engage stakeholders effectively is now a critical business function.
"It is vital for companies to engage on issues that matter, so focussing on clear objectives and material business needs that required action. It is imperative to show how engagement will add value to the business,' says Khumalo. Engaging the right stakeholders is another important aspect that will ensure the process is inclusive and diverse, taking into account stakeholders? expertise, level of influence, willingness to engage and impact of the company.
Managing expectation plays a significant aspect in making certain that all parties have realistic ambitions and agree on clear outcomes of the engagement. Khumalo says that stakeholders? perspectives are used to inform decision making but the responsibility for the decision rests with the company.
p>Other important principles of engagement include, engaging empowered representatives who takes decisions on behalf of their constituents, determining shared value ensuring that each stakeholder benefits directly from the engagement and understands how the others benefit, provide adequate resources (time, money, people) to drive success and lastly, level the playing field, being sensitive to perceived or actual power differences and facilitate the process to allow fair participation. Facilitators should be objective and trusted, striving to amplify stakeholder voices where required.

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