When executing your Advocacy Strategy there are a number of areas to be particularly mindful of given their ability to help and hinder mass mobilization, polling and regulatory compliance.
By Philip Monaghan
In this fifth in a series of features by Infrangilis to coincide with our new book with Up the Ethics, we focus on how a company can construct a winning advocacy strategy.
The new sustainability champions are experts at surfing the new wave of Lobbying for Good. Influencing the influencers is the ultimate aim, but it can take time before you identify the right people, never mind secure access and influence them.
Partner Up To Avoid Mistakes
For this reason, it is recommended that any first attempts at Lobbying for Good are undertaken as partners in a coalition or in partnership with an NGO. Certainly this should be the case if a business is operating abroad and away from its home base – in such circumstances the learning curve will be steep and a failure to grasp cultural nuances could inadvertently lead to anything from a faux pas to a lobbying scandal.
If you have no dedicated internal capacity then look to an outside agency to use their contacts to get you up and running quickly. Even the largest companies see the value of joining forces with like-minded peers, with the odd NGO thrown in to keep everything kosher. Just make sure a formal agreement is in place that outlines specific roles, responsibilities and anticipated benefits.
South African Firm Champions Sustainability
Take, for example, the rapidly growing South African retailer Woolworths, which has been identified by the World Economic Forum as one of a new breed of sustainability champions from emerging markets. Unsurprisingly then, Woolworths is already embracing Lobbying for Good.
They operate a chain of food and clothes stores with $3.2 billion of revenue and have an unusual degree of control over their supply chain with 97 percent of products brand-owned.
As one of the four pillars they have in place to shape the company’s “Good Business Journey,” Woolworths seeks to influence the South African government to improve agricultural standards, labor market issues and education. Their 2013 Sustainability Report notes the emergence of additional areas of engagement such as food standards and safety, consumer credit and protection, employment equity and transformation and the green economy.
They also articulate work with WWF-SA and the Government’s Working for Water Programme, and commitments around support for greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
Mind The Nuances
When executing your Advocacy Strategy there are a number of areas to be particularly mindful of given their ability to help and hinder mass mobilization, polling and regulatory compliance. At the end of the day, expect to make mistakes. The policy making cycle can be a complex and nuanced beast and it takes politicians many years to understand it themselves.
Finally remember to keep it positive – no-one wants to be lobbied by a pessimist no matter how compelling their argument.
Once you have selected the issue, built the narrative, mobilized resources and constructed your advocacy strategy, you are ready to go. So, get going!
This is not the end of the story however.
In our final feature in this series, Infrangilis will address the question: how can governments help business embrace Lobbying for Good?
Catch up on the Lobbying for Good series:
Part 4: Go Alone or Seek Allies?
Part 3: How Do You Build a Narrative?
Part 2: How to Select the Issue?
Part 1: Lobbying for Good: The Next Wave of Corporate Responsibility?