Stakeholder Panels for Sustainability Reporting

Award winning sustainability reporters seem to like stakeholder panels, which provide a critical sounding board, collaboration opportunities and credibility.  And they are probably cheaper compared to using an assurance process offered by branded management consultants.  Short link:

Many of the ACCA-CERES award winning sustainability reporters from North America utilized stakeholder panels as part of their reporting process. These include GE Corporation (winner of ACCA-CERES 2008 Award in Best Sustainability Report category), Seventh Generation (winner of ACCA-CERES Best SME Report), Symantec (co-winner of ACCA-CERES’ Best First Time Report), and Dell (received ACCA-CERES Commendation for Emerging Issues Reporting).

Stakeholder panels or similar focus groups are also popular in the extractive sector at both company and industry association level. Take the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), an industry club for oil & gas companies. As part of their recent efforts to upgrade their sustainability reporting guidance for their members, IPIECA convened a stakeholder panel. It currently comprises five expert members associated with IFC, WRI, F&C Asset Management, and Living Earth. Previously, IPIECA had also utilized stakeholder dialogue workshops to tease out key issues of concerns and challenges facing the oil & gas industry.

Some of the major extractive companies in Canada also like stakeholder panels as a vehicle to collect structured feedback for sustainability reporting purposes. Teck, Canada’s largest diversified mining, mineral processing and metallurgical company, used a stakeholder panel  to obtain feedback for its sustainability reporting process. Talisman, an independent oil & gas company, used an external facilitator to conducted one-on-one interviews with external stakeholders and facilitate a focus group involving Talisman employees to gather feedback on previous year’s report.

An interesting report about stakeholder panels, entitled 'Critical Friends, The Emerging Role of Stakeholder Panels in Corporate Governance, Reporting and Assurance (March 2007), can be accessed here. I have also recently blogged about misperceptions about sustainability reporting and latest statistics relating to the use of GRI Check and Third Party to boost credibility  in sustainability reporting using the GRI framework.

What are your experiences and views about use (or misuse) of stakeholder panels and focus groups in the context of sustainability and CSR reporting?

Other blogs on panels you may be interested in:

Assisting World Bank with Sustainability Reporting Review Panel
Assurance and Stakeholder Panels – All the same to Millipore?