Is Your Organization Ready for Multistakeholder Engagement?

Economies have been ravaged by the pandemic. The decarbonization mandate looms large.

There is increasing level of appreciation for the fact that economic revival and surviving the impact of climate change is possible only through adopting a self-regulatory model and being part of national level collaborations on these issues. In this context, corporations around the world must prepare themselves to be a part of multistakeholder engagements by nodal agencies of the United Nations, like COP, or government agencies and other organizations.

Progressive corporations are linking corporate reputation to their ability to proactively seek long term solutions to global corporate social responsibility (CSR) challenges and making their contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Custodians of corporate responsibility and corporate strategy need to work together to determine whether they want to invest in adopting a political cause.

As a corporation, how can you prepare yourself for these engagements and what can you expect?

Let’s address the decarbonization mandate. Firstly, if you have not done so yet, ensure that your internal and external strategists are monitoring and advising you on the fast-moving changes being made in the regulatory environment.

Now is the right time to also lay down the blueprint of how you will make a positive contribution to the ongoing dialogue. Determine if you have the relationships with the organizations that are developing the national priorities and are mandated to report progress to the United Nations. In the UAE, for instance, the appointment of Dr. Sultan Al Jaber as the UAE’s special envoy for climate change is being watched with interest. You can expect an institutionalized mechanism for long term, inclusive multistakeholder engagement on the agenda, including the buildup activities to UAE’s bid to host COP28.

Here are five practical steps to consider immediately.

  • Consider getting a team of people from various departments on the learning bus immediately and provide them with training opportunities to deepen their knowledge.
  • CEO accountability is crucial. Assess a fair key performance indicator (KPI) and assign it.
  • Consider a roster of conferences you can attend, or experts you can invite to sell in broader understanding of the issues at play
  • Do not leave out budgetary implications of time being spent to research or on networking.
  • Develop initiatives that align with the national agenda.

Now, let’s talk about the economic recovery mandate. This is a multistakeholder problem in all economies; oftentimes with multiple government agencies guiding the efforts.

In May 2020, the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Dubai decided to initiate a dialogue with the UAE governmental agencies. Movement of goods during the lockdown needed to be eased and many members wanted rental relief. APCO was approached to facilitate meetings with governmental leaders. What started as a request for a dialogue meeting soon became an informal Group of 35 plus business councils in the UAE—the Multi Nations Business Group (MNBG)—that are now representing 700 plus multinational companies. What worked for us was that we started by trying to build confidence in the process of engagement. We created a strong secretariat that leveraged the skills and knowledge of the stakeholders; and drew the platform where members could communicate and collaborate effectively. Our dialogue was outcome-oriented, transparent at all levels and the secretariat run by APCO was tasked with the follow-up actions. One year hence, MNBG is being used to soft sound governmental ideas; the conversations about reviving the economy through a partnership model are continuing.

In a region where the public affairs industry is nascent and government engagement is driven by royal protocols, calibrating your participation and systematically measuring impact is the route to successful outcomes.