Top 10 Stakeholder Engagement Trends of 2013
As a team, the Future 500 staff, board, and senior fellows believe passionately in the promise of corporations and NGOs coming together to advance systemic solutions to our most urgent sustainability challenges. Each fall, we hold a series of strategic planning meetings where we synthesize the trends we see, outlining our core issues of focus for the coming year and beyond.
From that promise, we identify what we anticipate are the Top 10 issues that activists and corporations will likely contend with in the coming year. For 2013, we have expanded our focus beyond the top overarching issues to identify the key issues facing key sectors in which we work: Energy, Technology, and Consumer Brands. Outlined below are the Top 10 issues of 2013.
Money & Weather, Ever Dynamic
Given a fourth straight year of anemic economic growth among the “99%”, a steady stream of financial scandals, and Super PACs and their donors showcasing the power of “crony capitalists” over electoral politics, 2012 in many ways perpetuated the populist discontent and fear that was sparked in 2011. Increasingly emboldened funders and grassroots activists began to channel this discontent in systematic ways, advocating transparency as a means to check corporate power in issues as wide-ranging as money in politics, energy production, and GMO labeling.
The networked activist movement that came of age during the Seattle WTO protests in 1999 and which blossomed globally during the 2011 Arab Spring, unified in 2012 as it became clear that the emerging generation across the globe will stiffly and immediately resist attempts to infringe upon a free and open Internet.
Amid a backdrop of severe and often catastrophic weather events in 2012, the environmental grassroots reignited around climate change. Each calamity heightened public anxiety over the coming impact of climate change, with calls for action growing successively bolder. As droughts crippled agriculture in much of the US West, Bill McKibben’s 350.org and its network allies orchestrated a consistent slate of climate-oriented campaigns. But it took Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s strong support of climate action, and the reelection of President Obama to get climate back on the political radar screen.
The boom in natural gas and shale oil, anti-Keystone XL protests, India’s massive blackout, and rising attention to coal use in China all combined to push environmentalists and funders from the political right (concerned about energy security and crony capitalism) to the left (concerned about the environment and public health) to be more strategic and long-term in their thinking about the climate and energy agenda than ever before. Any business sector that substantively impacts fossil-fuel energy use is at risk of grassroots pressure.
Our Top 10 issues are broad in scope and present risk for all companies, in particular the Fortune 1000 and top brands, which stakeholders perceive as more powerful, therefore demanding more from them. Given our experience bridging adversarial stakeholders on seemingly intractable issues, we see significant potential for forward thinking, strategically-positioned companies and NGOs to align around workable solutions that advance the triple bottom line.