The EIU’s report explores how companies should respond to the new set of “non-traditional” stakeholders, some of which are pursuing a bigger, societal or even global agenda that has forced companies to take a broader view of the impact of their operations.
The proliferation of the Internet and the popularity of social networking sites and blogs, have altered the way in which companies now deal with both old and new stakeholders.
In an Internet world companies no longer control the “message” about their external affairs. They have had to be more creative in the way they engage outside parties, not least through online communities. Greater openness, if handled smartly, while exposing internal vulnerabilities, may have bigger commercial advantages.
This report suggestsseven steps to put new stakeholder relationships on a secure footing, including:
- Be clear at the outset which intellectual property rights must be defended and which can be shared, and ensure there's a legal basis to enforce this.
- In the Internet age, companies cannot control public discussion about their operations; but they can respond quickly to criticism, or better, anticipate problems before they rise. Indeed, think about shifting management of stakeholder relations online
Key findings include:
- Companies must tread a line between partnership and confrontation.
- Firms most fear damage to their reputation but positive stakeholder experiences are helping to change the outlook
- Control of information is hard to relinquish but the future is with online communities
- Experience of handling new stakeholders is limited
- Intellectual property rights (IPR) protection poses big dilemmas