Stakeholder Engagement  practice in South Africa


This blog summarises the main findings of my recent work in stakeholder engagement. It highlights opportunities to improve the quality of professional engagement practice. Stakeholder engagement is a critical organisation competency and is becoming increasingly important for business, government and NGOs.

1           AA1000SES

The AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard [AA1000SES] is one of a suite of three standards curated by AccountAbility. Some organisations are familiar with it. Most organisations are unaware of its existence. Very few South African firms are following this international standard for best practice. Using the AA1000SES makes life much simpler, as it provides a tested framework for decisive strategy.


2          King IV

Most organisations are still coming to terms with the requirements of King IV, published towards the end of 2016. King IV tends to be viewed as merely a different reporting requirement. Few organisations see it as a source of competitive advantage. Few non-executive directors actively oversee engagement processes.


3          Integrated Reporting

The Stakeholder Engagement sections of many Integrated Reports tend to be bland, generic statements. They seem to be compiled because the Integrated Reporting format requires a section on stakeholder engagement. Some sections are so vanilla, that you could swop them with any organisation with very little editing. Consequently they do not provide real information for investors and key stakeholders. For many organisations, stakeholder engagement is a ‘nice to have.’


4          Managing Stakeholders as an Asset

Many organisations manage their stakeholders in a reactive fashion. They are often continually in crisis mode as they respond to events in order to protect their Licence to Operate. Managing stakeholders as an asset, brings about a systemic common approach and significant economies of scale.


5          Mapping and Spatial representation

Few organisations identify key stakeholders and represent their relationship graphically, usually in a an Influence/Importance Matrix. Few organisations prepare an Issues Map or Materiality Matrix. Those that do, exhibit  more sophisticated stakeholder engagement practice.

Putting a Stakeholder Map next to an Issues Map can provide a rich dialogue to inform engagement actions.


6          Terminology

Frequently organisations do not differentiate sensitively between stakeholder engagement, customer relationship management, public relations, and communications. Stakeholder engagement is used as a catchall phrase. Successful stakeholder engagement demands an approach very different from public relations or customer relations management, even though they have transverse implications.


7           Corporate Dashboard

Organisations are still grappling with the creation and use of a simple stakeholder engagement  dashboard to summarise the current slate of play in engagement actions.

The dashboard allows vertical and horizontal alignment of actions to take place; across functions and geographical locations.

Dashboards should articulate with personal and corporate performance management processes.


Best of luck with improving your stakeholder engagement practices.

Drop me a line sometime on and lets hear how you are doing.


James Forson

The Stakeholder Engagement Guy


Author: James Forson

James Forson spends a great deal of time near the centre of an intricate Venn diagram where management consulting, fiction and business writing, social investment governance, home-grown vegetables and procrastination overlap.