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CSRD Stakeholder Engagement: Navigating Challenges and Unlocking Solutions

The Impaakt Team

9 min Read Time | June 11th 2024

The drive towards corporate sustainability has gained significant momentum, and a key component of this movement is stakeholder engagement. The recent Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) further emphasizes the importance of including stakeholders in the sustainability journey. However, effectively engaging stakeholders can be a complex endeavor.

In this article, we'll explore the hurdles companies face when engaging stakeholders and offer solutions to ensure a productive and inclusive dialogue in accordance with the CSRD's requirements.

Challenges in Engaging Stakeholders

It is clear that there are many advantages and benefits to engaging stakeholders in the sustainability journey, but it may not be as easy as it seems. There are many challenges that should be well acknowledged and considered to avoid pitfalls.

  1. Relevance: A company must capture a diverse range of perspectives but also engage stakeholders most directly impacted by or with significant influence on its sustainability practices. Therefore, developing a comprehensive stakeholder map is crucial. This map should identify relevant stakeholder groups and their specific interests related to the company's sustainability efforts. This level of detail allows for targeted engagement strategies that cater to the specific needs and concerns of each group.

  2. Quality: Oftentimes, stakeholders lack the necessary training and context to provide high-quality materiality assessments. Making accurate and impartial assessments requires skills, vetted information, and robust quality control mechanisms. To address this, several factors must be addressed. Stakeholders must receive proper training on sustainability issues relevant to the materiality assessment. Additionally, they must have access to reliable data and context to base their assessments on factual information, not solely on personal beliefs. The wording of assessment questions significantly impacts responses. It is crucial to mitigate cognitive biases and craft clear, unbiased questions. Finally, the quality of assessments needs to be evaluated after collection. This includes verification for consistency, identification of outliers and anomalies, and ensuring overall validity.

  3. Diversity: Integrating diverse stakeholder perspectives can be challenging as stakeholders may have conflicting priorities or differing levels of expertise on sustainability issues. A framework favouring and weighting stakeholder feedback is essential and should consider factors like the relevance of the feedback to the company's sustainability issues, the potential impact of the issue, and the stakeholder group's level of expertise or direct impact.

  4. Confidentiality: Some stakeholders might be hesitant to provide candid feedback if they are concerned about confidentiality. Companies must clearly communicate their data privacy practices and offer options for both confidential and anonymous feedback.

By acknowledging these challenges and implementing well-designed solutions, companies can foster a more inclusive and productive stakeholder engagement process. This, in turn, contributes to a more robust and comprehensive DMA.

Approaches and Solutions to Stakeholder Engagement

Just as stakeholder engagement is not a box-ticking exercise, it certainly does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. The most effective strategy to engage different parties will vary depending on the specific company, its stakeholders, and the nature of the sustainability issues being assessed. Here are some common methods that we often see employed:

  • Surveys and questionnaires

  • Workshops and meetings

  • Interviews and focus groups

However, many of these are time and resource-consuming and can lead to a selection bias if the incorrect stakeholders are engaged for specific topics. There are also issues revolving around engaging a meaningful number of stakeholders to yield comprehensive and insightful results and feedback.

Impaakt, an online platform, offers a valuable tool for companies as opposed to traditional engagement methods. Such a platform can provide several advantages:

  • Cost-effectiveness and resource efficiency: Impaakt streamlines the engagement process, reducing administrative costs and time commitments.

  • Scalability and global reach: Through its SaaS solution, Impaakt facilitates engagement with large numbers of stakeholders, even those geographically dispersed.

  • Stakeholder training and support: By offering training and educational resources, Impaakt helps stakeholders understand the company's sustainability issues to receive meaningful feedback.

  • Confidentiality and anonymity: Options for confidential and anonymous engagement are provided by Impaakt, ensuring the company’s data stays private and potentially encouraging participation from stakeholders who might be hesitant to express their views publicly.

  • Data aggregation and analysis: Taking care of the process of collecting and analysing stakeholder feedback can be complex, by providing companies with clear and actionable insights, Impaakt removes this burden from companies.

  • Centralised communication: Getting organised within large companies to mobilise engagement is tough, however, Impaakt can serve as a centralised system for all stakeholder engagement material, facilitating ongoing communication and information sharing.

  • Expertise in materiality assessments: Impaakt’s track record, amassing over 1 million materiality assessments, allows for unique expertise in stakeholder engagement and DMAs, guiding companies through the process and ensuring a robust outcome. Additionally, Impaakt’s “CKR mechanism” can be a helpful tool, where together, we can assign varying weights to individuals/stakeholder groups based on their unique role. For instance, employees working on a specific product line might deserve a higher weight when assessing the materiality of the related impacts, compared to more distant stakeholders.

  • Quality control: Mechanisms in place to ensure the quality of the materiality assessments are critical. Impaakt has several processes in place to ensure this, such as the detection of suspicious assessments and the removal of outliers.

  • Considering the "silent stakeholders": Impaakt’s community of certified raters allows for the incorporation of perspectives of "silent stakeholders" like the environment and civil society.

By incorporating stakeholder perspectives into the DMA, companies can ensure their sustainability strategies are robust and well-aligned with the needs and expectations of a diverse range of relevant stakeholder groups. Stakeholders are central to a sustainable business.

Involving stakeholders in the decision-making process from the outset can significantly improve buy-in. Bringing stakeholders together beforehand to understand the major sustainability issues fosters better understanding and support throughout the implementation process. By engaging stakeholders upstream, companies can gain valuable insights and build a more supportive ecosystem for their sustainability actions.


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