Stakeholder mapping, or who's who in the era of social and digital connection

Oct 1, 2021 | Analytics, Blog

It's not new that everyone wants to know who is who. More precisely, since 1920 this interest gave rise to the famous Who's Who, from the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, first born from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In its 173rd edition, it includes around 35,000 biographies of people considered recognized and respected in all areas, around the world, from Nelson Mandela to Tom Cruise.

Checking who are the famous people of the moment or historical characters with great achievements is not difficult. Guides like Oxford and Google – our modern omnipresent oracle – are there to help. Knowing who are the people and organizations that really influence the direction of your company or entity, for better or for worse, the so-called stakeholders, is not so simple. It's not just your client, your employee, that authority or community association. They are all together in a dynamic, rich, living and changing collective of common interests.

The profound social, economic and technological changes of recent decades have encouraged reflections and transformations that have taken the focus off the “me” and placed it on “us”, on the common good. Or from the ego-system to the ecosystem, as defined by MIT professor Otto Scharmer. In 2015, the UN formalized this intense aspiration for a truly better future by establishing the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), endorsed by 193 nations.

Long before that, in 2000, the Global Compact already called on companies to adopt social and corporate responsibility policies. Today, more than 12,000 corporations from 160 countries are part of this network with the purpose and challenge of aligning their business strategies and operations with the universal principles of human rights, decent work, preserving the environment and combating corruption, acting in fact to contribute to the 17 SDGs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, collective interest and common well-being were put to the test and redefined as an urgent and global priority.

Among many experts and opinion leaders, there is a consensus that we are entering the era of so-called stakeholder capitalism, defined as capitalism where companies should not only focus on generating short-term profit for their shareholders, but also strive to add values – often intangible, such as trust and reputation – to the business that guarantee its sustainable survival in the long term, considering the interests of all stakeholders and society as a whole. It is the transition from Corporate Social Responsibility to ESG, where criteria linked to governance, social performance and environmental preservation are used to measure a company's performance and establish its monetary value.

In your book on this topic, the founder and executive president of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, highlights that the concept of stakeholder dates back more than 50 years, but what has changed today and what makes managing this relationship more challenging is that interests are now global. Economies, societies and the environment are more interconnected than ever. The internet and social networks allow everyone to have access to information, different realities and inequalities, raising global awareness to another level.

In this context, identifying who the fundamental stakeholders are for your company or entity in the most diverse spheres – internal public, regulatory bodies, NGOs, professional associations, governments, activists, communities, economic actors and social digital influencers, among many others – is the first step to defining a sustainable successful relationship strategy.

But advanced technology now allows us to go further and strategically visualize what we call a living collective of interests. Combining cutting-edge tools, Artificial Intelligence and analytical capabilities, it is possible to build true connection maps. Knowing not only who it is, but with whom and how this stakeholder interacts in the ecosystem, what their agendas are, how they change over time, what trends may emerge or expand. In short: we can monitor systematically – and in real time – and positively interfere in the joint effort to build a better world. Are we living in incredible times or not?

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