Stakeholder management as a factor for success
Deutsche Post DHL presented the fourth volume of its study series on important trends in business and society, entitled "Delivering Tomorrow - Exchange, Engage, Excel: Creating Value Through Stakeholder Engagement." For the first time in the series, an issue from the field of corporate governance has been a subject of scrutiny. The authors, prominent scholars and practitioners without exception, examine responsible corporate governance, the management of stakeholders and/or their demands with which companies must deal. One major insight from their contributions: The key to success lies in continual and open dialog.
Stakeholder management is not an end in itself. Rather, it creates a prerequisite for entrepreneurial success in the future as well.
In the managerial ranks of many companies around the world a serious shift in thinking has occurred in the last few years. The focus on "shareholder value", inspired in 1986 by the American economist Alfred Rappaport, has yielded to a broad view of the needs and desires of numerous stakeholders. Today, customers, employees, suppliers, social groups and NGOs are natural target groups of the commercial and communicative activities of most companies. The change, however, is still not happening fast enough for many observers. Or, at least, so say the results of an extensive international online survey now published by Deutsche Post DHL in the current volume of the "Delivering Tomorrow" study series, which tackles the subject of stakeholder management. Quite a few survey participants though have noticed that companies in recent years have become significantly more open and sensitive to the concerns of their stakeholders.
This is also a necessary step, since successful stakeholder management is not a matter of simply informing stakeholder target groups about the company's perspective. It requires companies to enter explicitly into dialog with those groups.
"Our world has increased in complexity and dynamism over the last few years. Companies can be successful long-term in this environment only if they meet the expectations of customers through competitive business solutions and at the same time convince with responsible actions", said Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL. "The close engagement of one's own stakeholders is a clear success factor."
The "Delivering Tomorrow" study series is one way the Bonn-based postal and logistics company intends to cultivate that dialog.
Trust-based dialog forms the foundation
The study is a compilation of guest contributions from prominent academic authors and interviews with practicing experts, and one of its key insights involves public backing. This type of support is significantly greater for business models that explicitly consider the interests of all stakeholders than those aimed merely at added value for shareholders. This fact has tangible economic consequences. Sunil A. Misser, CEO of AccountAbility, the global corporate responsibility research and advisory firm, declared that external stakeholders will gain more power in both shaping a brand's reputation and affecting company performance.
According to Robert A. Phillips, Professor at the University of Richmond, if companies want to enter into a relationship based on mutual trust with these stakeholders, it is necessary for them to understand clearly that stakeholders do not view them critically per se. Instead stakeholders have a clear understanding of the idea of "the behavioral norm of reciprocity." The opinion leaders who participated in Deutsche Post DHL's online survey support this view: While it is true that stakeholders are not afraid to address the unethical behavior of companies, it was precisely those companies who opened themselves up to public discourse with their activities that were highly favored for example by their customers. In that respect, listening and understanding are crucial to successful stakeholder management.
Shared value creation as the goal
Stakeholder management is not an end in itself. Rather, it creates a prerequisite for entrepreneurial success in the future as well. Continual and open dialog with the most diverse stakeholders has enormous potential to promote innovation, create added value or even produce new business models - that was the tenor of various guest contributions. The concept behind these thoughts is "shared value." Mark R. Kramer, Senior Fellow of the CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, developed the shared value model together with economist Michael Porter and explained it in this way: "Creating shared value is about policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which the company operates."
Deutsche Post DHL pursues this goal with its holistic approach to corporate responsibility. In the framework of corporate citizenship the company employs strengths and core competencies to help promote social concerns - for example through its GoTeach education initiative or its GoHelp disaster management program. The Group wants to utilize the shared value approach to create added value for the company that also benefits both society and the environment. This means that the insights into carbon efficiency that Deutsche Post DHL has gleaned from its successful GoGreen program are to be made increasingly available to customers.
In this way, Deutsche Post DHL defines the idea of "shared value" - not only in dealing with customers and the environment but also as a holistic concept for corporate governance. In so doing, the drive to deliver both respect and results does not end at the company doors - for the world market leader from Bonn, it is also suitable as a strategic compass for the entire logistics industry.