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Top Ten Stakeholder Engagement Trends of 2017

Each year, Future 500 identifies ten social, environmental, or economic trends that will shape how corporations and their external stakeholders interact during the following year and beyond.  It just released its sixth annual report, Top 10 Stakeholder Engagement Trends of 2017.  Here are some highlights.

In the context of an increasingly polarized country, many issues seem to have become a political wedge. As a result, Future 500 sees environmental protection and social justice advocates becoming more likely to seek private sector leadership to drive social and environmental progress.  Corporations will have more opportunities to engage stakeholders in advancing solutions around social and ecological equity. Market forces will support new and continuing efforts to protect oceans, forests, and climate. The report provides many insights to guide organizations as they engage with each other during what is characterized as a period of volatile change.

In addition to the ten market trends, four macro trends will influence collaborative efforts to shift economic and political realities:

  1.  Left versus Right: The volume will increase. Expect galvanized support and funding for progressive, left of center organizations that prioritize social justice and the environment, as well as push back from their conservative counterparts.
  2. Establishment versus Insurgent:  With identity crises on both the left and the right, expect a continued and more animated power struggle between those who challenge establishment and promote decentralization, and those who push for a virtuous agenda from a strong central government.
  3. Civil Disobedience and Legal Impediments:  Socio-economic divides will widen and polarize support for special interests. Protests and other tactics to highlight and challenge social and environmental issues will increase and become more vocal.
  4. More Collaboration:  Political shifts and widening gulfs around the world have awakened and energized many on both the left and the right, particularly in the business sector. This will result in significant demand for the private sector to collaborate and find common-ground solutions to counterbalance political deadlock.

The Ten Market Trends:

  1. An Equitable & Just Transition: With a changed political climate, greater responsibility will fall to corporate leaders to promote and transition to social and economic equity, particularly in their local communities across the globe.
  2. Dear Company: What do you stand for? Corporate social responsibility is increasingly bound to brand perception. Stakeholders will begin to demand that companies go beyond neutrality to taking action.
  3. A Rising Tide Lifts All Ocean Advocates: Marine conservation will provide a safe harbor for collaboration among advocates across political and corporate–NGO divides.
  4. Making Advocacy Great Again: Environmental and social activism will gain momentum and focus on business as an influence force. And companies are under increasing pressure to manage reputation, create positives, and find opportunities.
  5. Infrastructure: Block Some, Build Some: Politicians will be motivated to find projects with broad-appeal. The environmental and social justice communities will have to go beyond being vocal about what and why they oppose projects to clearly define what they support.
  6. Localism Reigns Supreme: Environmental change will move to the state and local levels. Engagement with local stakeholders and policy makers will be a prerequisite for acceptance in any community, watershed, or otherwise-defined region.
  7. Global Campaigns Ramp Up: Political forces will cause advocates and funders to move from seeking change through governmental policy toward using private market regulation of global supply chains to drive change.
  8. Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Consumer watchdogs and the impact investing community have stepped up pressure to reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals of high concern through private market regulation. Consumer and shareholder activism will pressure companies to make and disclose efforts to shrink chemical footprints.
  9. Water: A Unifier, A Divider: Water advocacy will remain a major focus and source of activity. Water initiatives focused on security and inclusive policy discussions will be at the fore.
  10. Collaboration For Lasting Change: Coalition building among social and environmental advocates, corporate responsibility leaders, SRI groups and grassroots political movements will enjoy a “renaissance” and enable progress in environmental and social protection at a systemic level.

Overall, the report found that global politics aside, business and advocacy leaders can be expected to coalesce around and collaborate on providing resources to build a healthier world. These leaders understand the ways in which the economy and the environment are connected and that promoting a healthier world ensures social progress. The bottom line focus? We all have Earth in common.

Download and read the full report here.