Stakeholder engagement is an important tool for Universities to involve those groups and individuals who impact and are impacted by the Universities’ activities and programmes. Working with stakeholders provides the opportunity to explore a School’s strengths, look at what risks and opportunities exist and develop new ideas.
ISAE/FGV in Brazil regularly organises Multi-Stakeholder Panels, inviting a range of important stakeholders to the University to discuss and prioritise issues, and make suggestions for future actions. I spoke with Norman Arruda Filho, President of ISAE, about their stakeholder engagement process.
Why is it important to engage stakeholders and how do you identify and engage them?
Engaging stakeholders allows us to collect their perceptions and improve our sustainable practices. To do this, first we select the stakeholders that most impact our relationships and then try to include them in a series of activities that we hold: internal sustainability courses, institutional trainings, lectures and Multi-Stakeholder Panels. The Multi-Stakeholder panels also help us to make our stakeholders multipliers of sustainability.
What is the Multi-Stakeholder Panel?
ISAE’s Multi-Stakeholder Panel is an annual event that gathers the institution’s main stakeholders. The objective of the meeting is to listen to and appraise stakeholders’ opinions about the challenges of corporate sustainability. This action is aligned to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) principle of stakeholders’ inclusion for determining materiality.
The events have a range of presentations, individual surveys, debates, group meetings, forums and circles of dialogue. They offers an opportunity to collect perceptions about ISAE’s sustainability actions, collect and prioritise materiality issues in accordance with stakeholders, propose future actions for each theme prioritised by stakeholders and reflect on the process of continuous improvement of relationships between stakeholders.
Who is invited to be part of the panel?
In 2012, the Management Excellence Committee at ISAE identified our stakeholders—who included employees, institutional strategic partners, students, NGO representatives, suppliers, corporate clients, competitors, faculty, financial entities, government, trade unions, specialists, the Global Compact and PRME.
We used the following criteria in choosing the participants of the Multi-Stakeholder Panel
- Perception of the group of stakeholders’ degree of influence and interest in ISAE
- Perception of ISAE’s degree of influence and interest in a particular group of stakeholders
- Diversity of internal and external publics
- Diversity within the same public (e.g.: inviting an engaged employee or student, or a less engaged one)
What were the results?
Stakeholders show us what our best sustainable practices are, and identify which practices we should improve, or even propose new practices that we must implement. The meeting allowed us to identify main risks and opportunities according to the perceptions of participants. A full list of these is available in our SIP report (see link below).
Once we collected the issues, we prioritised them. This required a more thorough reflection focusing on the current context of sustainability and important topics for the education sector. The reflections emphasised including sustainability in the core business, not simply as individual actions of social responsibility. It also confirmed the upward trend to transversally include sustainability in the curricula, not just as isolated disciplines but as concepts and practices that permeate across disciplines, emphasising faculty training, the use of new methods, internal public training, the role of public opinion leaders and social mobilisation. The prioritised topics are outlined below.
The stakeholders also made a number of suggestions of actions in relation to the prioritised issues. In our report we provide a list of these suggestions as well links to different parts of the document which provide more information as to what has been done in relation to those suggestions.
What have been some of the challenges of this stakeholder engagement process?
The big challenge is to make sure that participants understand the importance of this process and participate in the Panel Multi-Stakeholder event.
Forty-eight participants were invited to the Multi-Stakeholder Panel although only 18 attended. The low participation rate resulted in a narrower vision but allowed us to identify main themes and contribute to the materiality of the report. The next time around we will be exploring engagement strategies in order to get greater involvement of different stakeholder groups.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
To do it. Engaging your stakeholders is the best way to identify if your practices are effective. This event also helps to demonstrate the value of the sustainable practices to the institution.
Also do not forget to collect the stakeholders’ perceptions for your SIP report. It is a strong tool for strategic planning of any institution.
To view ISAE’s latest Sharing Information on Progress report click here.