Climate change and stakeholder engagement

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Considering stakeholder engagement and the value thereof in developing climate change mitigation and adaption strategies

Considering stakeholder engagement and the value thereof in developing climate change mitigation and adaption strategies

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  • 1. Climate Change Adaptation Strategies: Building Resilience and Minimising Risk through effective stakeholder engagement Reana Rossouw Next Generation Consultants
  • 2. A Changing Climate for Business  Climate change exposes businesses to an array of risks and opportunities.  Many risks and opportunities are already present:  the opening up of new markets and services  the emergence of new legislation  the occurrence of climate-related impacts  However, the future evolution of risks and opportunities related to climate change is hard to quantify, making them difficult to include in formal business and strategy planning.  Furthermore, the emergence of "new" risks and opportunities makes it problematic to make judgements based on past experience.
  • 3. Climate Change and Adaptation Challenges  Climate change is often presented (in the mainstream media) as a serious threat to humanity. It also involves substantial uncertainty, and is perceived as an environmental or “green” issue, and as a “global” problem, with negative impacts that will occur many years in the future, often in distant locations rather than locally.  There is a widespread lack of understanding of climate science and climate change projections, and there are extensive misconceptions in the community about the nature, causes and consequences of climate change.  Further, there is substantial scepticism about climate change, with beliefs that climate change is not real or not extensive, that it is not the result of human activity, and that the proposed responses to climate change are a more substantial risk to society than the potential impacts of climate change.  Adaptation to the potential impacts of climate change requires a strong focus on long-term, “strategic” thinking, and many people, groups and businesses tend to use much shorter planning horizons and more “tactical” responses.
  • 4. Climate Change and Engagement Drivers • Information about Climate Change • Assessment of local capacity and potential impacts • Conducive group values, culture and social influence • Capacity for strategic planning Adaptation Pathway • Clear understanding of climate change • Understanding of own climate change vulnerability • Sense of responsibility for developing a solution • Willingness to engage in adaptation planning Barriers • Misinformation, uncertainty and scepticism • Negative emotional reactions • Expectations that a solution will be provided • Lack of Resources
  • 5. The link between adaptation issues and stakeholder engagement  Adaptation to climate change is highly contextualised.  Eg. Adaptation required by a metropolitan coastal community (where increases in sea levels and storm surges will have implications for building codes, infrastructure planning and emergency management) is quite different to the adaptation to climate change required by dairy farmers (where changes in temperature and rainfall will have implications for feed and water supply).  No single adaptation approach can work in all different contexts – rather, the adaptation required will vary markedly between different groups of stakeholders, whether these stakeholders represent communities, industries or regional areas.  Relatedly, all adaptation efforts will provide useful local benefit to those undertaking them, by improving capacity to avoid negative impacts, to minimise their effects, or to recover from them more swiftly.
  • 6. The link between adaptation issues and stakeholder engagement  Adaptation will require substantial changes in local practices.  Such changes have a much better chance of being appropriately planned, broadly accepted, and consistently maintained if they originate in a process that involves engagement rather than a “top-down” process where adaptation is imposed from outside without consultation or interaction given the highly contextualised nature of adaptation.
  • 7. Why Engage and Communicate?  Communicating how a company is managing climate change - how risks are minimised, opportunities exploited and solutions developed - is a crucial element of value creation.  Communicating its approach to climate change can help distinguish a company from the competition and offers opportunities to gain competitive advantage.  Clear communication of businesses' views, strategies and actions on climate change, and evidence that they have engaged with and understand the concerns and priorities of their stakeholders, can be the most important factor in determining the future sustainability of a company.
  • 8. Carbon Disclosure Project  A company's Disclosure Index score "reflects the comprehensiveness of a company's response in terms of the depth and breadth of its answers."  Given the blend of certainty (that there are risks and opportunities associated with climate change) and uncertainty (about their nature, timing and scope), engaging relevant stakeholders, is often considered key to success.  Stakeholders bring different perspectives, values and expectations that can help a business build a better understanding of the nature and scope of the climate risks and opportunities, and how best to approach them. Ensuring a broad range of perspectives is considered increases the likely acceptability, as well as the effectiveness, of any proposed actions.
  • 9. Engagement in Practice  In practice, there are many ways in which businesses may choose, or are in some cases required, to engage with stakeholders and communicate progress on climate change.  1. Awareness-raising.  This could include awareness and communication to all stakeholders of what climate change means, how it impacts on the business, what measures have already been taken, which staff are responsible and what future initiatives are planned.  2. Good practice examples.  Most businesses will have particular activities and actions associated with climate change that they are proud of, but not all of them necessarily communicate this effectively to their stakeholders. Reporting best practice is particularly powerful for businesses that are project-based, as it allows successful aspects of different projects to be showcased.
  • 10. Engagement in Practice  3. Risks and opportunities.  Anticipating the risks and opportunities presented by climate change has become an important part of business planning. Which risks and opportunities are considered significant or important varies considerably from business to business, making it crucial to engage staff, management and external stakeholders.  4. Behavioural change.  Perhaps the ultimate goal for any company who wants to take a real lead on climate change issues is to become established as thought leader that can effect wider behaviour change.
  • 11. Definitions in the stakeholder environment  Communication:  Any manner of information sharing with stakeholders, generally through one-way, non-iterative processes  Consultation:  The process of gathering information or advice from stakeholders and taking those views into consideration to amend plans, make decisions or set directions  Dialogue:  An exchange of views and opinion to explore different perspectives, needs and alternatives, with a view to fostering mutual understanding, trust and cooperation on a strategy or initiative  Engagement:  An organisation‟s efforts to understand and involve stakeholders and their concerns in its activities and decision-making processes
  • 12. Increasing sophistication in approaches to engagement Communications via one-way channels designed to spread information • TRUST US Consultation and dialogue via interactive channels • SHOW US Partnerships that create value and are focused on finding solutions • INVOLVE US, HEAR US
  • 13. What are the challenges when engaging with stakeholders?  To communicate science to multiple audiences in a clear fashion  To gain the financial resources to engage with a variety of actors  To balance the respective interests of the different stakeholders involved in a process  To not influence or shape the responses of the stakeholders and undermine the credibility of the engagement process  To recognise knowledge disparities between stakeholders when assessing their inputs – so as not to favour one stakeholder‟s arguments over another
  • 14. Stakeholder Issues to consider  Stakeholders engage because they do not want to appear un-cooperative  They want themselves or their organisations to be heard  They feel valued by being asked  They feel that by „having a voice‟ they may be able to exert more control  They can find out more about the topic under research/discussion  They can promote their organisation  They can make new contacts and network
  • 15. Better engagement on climate change issues  Address gaps in knowledge:  Recognise that lack of understanding and misconceptions about climate change will result in the fact that some engagements will simply involve conveying information  Acknowledge uncertainty:  Be honest about the uncertainty involved in climate predictions, but try to simplify this by identifying what is common to the different scenarios and projections, and by drawing comparisons to uncertainties in other areas  Address scepticism:  Engage intensively with influential members of the community to combat scepticism regarding climate change. It is important to provide messages that directly address the claims and arguments of sceptical individuals  Address emotional reactions:  In discussing climate change issues, especially in the process of promoting notions of personal vulnerability, individuals may feel helpless and/or fearful. These feelings can be overcome by identifying positive and tangible actions and by encouraging stakeholders to focus on being part of a collective response.
  • 16. Assigning responsibility  Sustainability managers, who understand the issues and the need for stakeholder engagement, would not be expected to have extensive communications experience or know what tools are available  Dedicated communications and PR staff might typically have relatively little experience of stakeholder engagement and no in-depth understanding of climate change issues  What results is a „knowledge gap‟ between those who know about climate change and those who know about communications. For some organisations, this gap might hinder their future progress on climate change.
  • 17. What is important?  Transparency - there will be a growing requirement for solid information and data to support corporate sustainability practices  Product knowledge - particularly with regard to the origins of raw materials and their processing and transportation journeys  Traceability - stronger link between sustainability performance and the physical reality of processes and location, e.g. extraction, production  Collaboration - using multi-stakeholder participation is crucial to build trusted, fact-based evaluative criteria and systems.
  • 18. Recommendations  Maintain contact and feedback:  People become cynical about engagement if decision makers do not communicate how participants‟ input and suggestions were taken into account. Try to ensure that all parties receive something from participation in the engagement process.  Plan evaluation from the outset:  Set priorities for outcomes, establish performance metrics, and be mindful of the scale of the targeted change. Collect baseline data so that change can be measured. Ideally, all adaptation projects undertaken should draw on a single evaluation framework.  Evaluate both process and outcomes:  When evaluating engagement, measure both process (the way in which engagement was done) and outcomes (what was achieved from the engagement process).  Acknowledge other impacts:  Accept that any measured changes in the engaged group might have many sources apart from the engagement process. Ideally, invest in a specific methodology for evaluation, to establish an agreed and consistent set of measures for all engagement related to climate adaptation.
  • 19. Questions?  Reana Rossouw  Next Generation Consultants  Specialists in Sustainable Development and Reporting, Stakeholder Management and Human Rights Management  Tel: (011) 2750315  E-mail:  Web: