Tying up loose ends

Published on
September 11, 2014

Stakeholder activism is the process of disgruntled stakeholders publicly voicing their social and environmental issues, garnering media attention and placing increasing pressure on an organisation to alter its operations.

The concept originally gained momentum during the 1970s, when the first coalition advocating for socially responsible corporate policies was formed.

A well-known example of stakeholder activism is the recent Whitehaven Coal issue that wiped $314 million from Whitehaven Coal’s share price.

Anti-coal campaigner, Jonathan Moylan, distributed a fake media release and impersonated an ANZ Bank corporate affairs spokesperson stating that ANZ had revised its decision to provide a $1.2 billion loan to Whitehaven. This resulted in an 8.8 percent drop in the company’s share price, sparking a sudden sale on the ASX.

Mr Moylan planned the hoax to inform ANZ customers that their money was being used to finance coal, which he believes has environmental impacts far greater than any economic impact felt by Whitehaven due to the scam.

Even though the media release was proven to be fake and Mr Moylan had no association with the ANZ Bank, the damage was already done.

As US comedian and actor Will Rogers once said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute”.

With the evolution of the digital age, one disgruntled stakeholder now has access to the masses, empowering others to advocate their message with one quick click of the ‘share’ button.

Not only does this heighten your organisation’s need to regularly undertake environmental scanning for potential issues, but it also makes it essential for management to understand the level of interest and influence stakeholder groups have on business operations. This form of stakeholder mapping is a relatively simple exercise, but one that is invaluable in a proactive issues management approach.

Above all else, be sure to exercise openness and transparency with stakeholders, to develop public trust and enduring positive stakeholder relations.

It is often too late to establish a relationship with stakeholders after they have publicly damaged an organisation’s reputation and impacted operations.

In essence, thorough stakeholder identification and planning allows potential loose ends to be identified before they are tugged.

To learn more about the benefits of stakeholder identification and planning, contact Fiona Sperou, Executive Group Manager on 3229 4499 or fiona.sperou@rowland.com.au