Practice guide

4 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Rising Sustainability Requirements of Multiple Stakeholders

Practical tips to help you deal with the growing number of sustainability-related requirements and information demands of your stakeholder

4 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Rising Sustainability Requirements of Multiple Stakeholders
Jeannette Dinh
Marketing & Sales Manager

Rising Information Demands of Internal and External Stakeholders

As a sustainability or quality management professional in the supply chain industry, you are likely no stranger to the constant stream of sustainability-related information demands from internal and external stakeholders.

Whether it's the sales team that needs information about the sustainable sourcing of the product to answer another request for proposal (RFP) of a customer, or your finance and accounting colleagues requesting evidence on the company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, staying on top of these requests can be overwhelming.

As expectations and requirements from customers, investors, and governments continue to rise, the pressure to keep up is growing rapidly.

Responses to your stakeholders need to be auditable and transparent. This necessitates maintaining and verifying evidence, as well as managing relevant context and explanations for sustainability data. Failure to do so may not only result in missed business opportunities, but also risks reputational harm for the company.

The Challenge of Responding to Multiple Sustainability Requests

One of the biggest challenges for sustainability teams of suppliers is meeting these demands while managing the sheer volume of information that needs to be gathered.

Collecting and compiling responses and related evidence manually from both within and outside the organization is a time-consuming process that takes countless hours of tedious work.

Standardized questionnaires and ratings by third-party providers, such as EcoVadis, can serve as a useful and important information source for your stakeholders. However, there is no one-size-fits-all response for all requests. Even as a rated and certified organization, you might still need to provide extra information that goes beyond what these questionnaires cover.

Individual stakeholders each have their own specific areas of focus. Depending on the industry or geographic location, customer, investor, or regulatory requirements may vary and change rapidly. Additionally, meeting the specific technical format of assessments, ratings, and reports for numerous stakeholders also increases complexity.

How to Stay Ahead of the Ever-Increasing Requirements

With the right approach, you can save valuable time in meeting the requirements of your customers and other stakeholders. Here are some strategies that help you navigate the increasing number of stakeholder requests:

1. Understand your Stakeholders’ Perspective

Understanding and prioritizing your stakeholders is key to effectively meeting their needs. It's particularly essential to get familiar with the format and their specific requirements, as requests from different stakeholders vary in their focus.

Before you start preparing the response to a request, make sure you get to know your stakeholders and reflect on the relevance and due date of their requests.

Questions that can guide you in understanding your stakeholders include:

  • How many of your customers and partners have set sustainability goals and what is their focus? What percentage does that equal in terms of you company’s revenue representation?
  • What sustainability-related topics and questions are often included in the requests for proposals (RFPs) or tenders you get?
  • Who among your investors are asking about ESG, and why?
  • What regulations are affecting you and your stakeholders, and when?

2. Establish Clear Processes

Establishing clear processes and protocols for responding to stakeholder requests is crucial. Doing so will help ensure that requests are handled efficiently and that the information provided is accurate and consistent.

Developing a set of standardized answers for frequently asked questions and standardized workflows for gathering responses can help you efficiently handle any type of request.

Keep track of all requests and ensure that your responses are consistent, accurate, and up-to-date. To accomplish this, consider the following steps:

  • Centralize information: Centralizing all of your sustainability-related responses and evidence in a single place can help you easily access the data you need to respond to stakeholder requests. This may involve qualitative sustainability policies and reports, as well as sustainability performance indicators, or any other relevant type of information.
  • Contextualize your evidence: Sustainability evidence is most impactful when it is put into the context of both external requirements and your company's progress. When adding context to evidence related to certain questions, consider the different types of stakeholders you are engaging with. Tailor your answers to meet your stakeholders’ expectations, goals, and information needs.
  • Build up a system: It is key to be organized to stay on top of all the requirements. Come up with a system to keep track of each request, including its source, the information required, and when and how the request was fulfilled. Consider creating a set of standard responses that you can easily access when you need to respond to similar requests in the future.

3. Collaborate with Your Colleagues

To complete a sustainability questionnaire with audit-ready responses, it is crucial to collaborate with your colleagues. Sustainability information and related evidence files are often dispersed across different departments and functions within a company, or need to be collected from external partners or suppliers.

To facilitate collaboration, it is important to rely on a central point of contact within the organization who is responsible for coordinating the responses and collecting evidence data. Colleagues should work closely with this person to ensure that all necessary information is collected, approved, and submitted in a timely and accurate manner.

In many cases, your colleagues may not have much time or expertise in responding to sustainability questionnaires, so it is crucial to provide them with clear instructions and deadlines. A collaborative workspace, where you can share feedback on documentation and work together, can be helpful.

Establishing clear communication channels, quality controls and approval processes will ensure comprehensive, accurate, and audit-ready responses. This will allow for timely responses to stakeholder requests.

4. Reflect on Your Progress and Adjust as Necessary

Continuously monitoring your sustainability performance can help you track your progress, identify areas for improvement, and take action to make changes where necessary.

Your responses to sustainability assessments and questionnaires serve as a barometer of your technical sustainability progress and material risks for your stakeholders. Regularly reflecting on and adjusting your approach is key to reaching your sustainability goals.

Take a step back and evaluate how well your current sustainability program is working. Paint a clear picture of both your progress and areas for refinement. Reflect on your stakeholder engagement, and consider whether you need to adjust your approach to better align your stakeholders' interests with your own strategy or vice versa.

This way, you can confidently develop a more comprehensive sustainability strategy fueled by insights from all sustainability requests that you receive.

Leverage Software To Set Up Efficient and Reliable Processes

Manually responding to requests about sustainability is a daunting task, particularly as you should focus on driving positive impact and making meaningful change.

That's why leveraging a software solution can be a game-changer for sustainability professionals, quality managers and every team member involved in responding to requests from stakeholders.

Supported by technology, you can establish clear, efficient processes and workflows that streamline the entire process, from mapping requirements to preparing and maintaining the requested information.

Sunhat helps you stay organized as an individual or a team in order to meet stakeholder demands and fulfill regulatory requirements. The software solution automates request management and offers a central workspace to prepare all responses, while ensuring that sustainability evidence is audit-ready at any time.

Sunhat empowers you to:

  • Map incoming stakeholder requests with past requests and automatically generate answer suggestions
  • Consolidate all sustainability requests into one unified view
  • Assign tasks to your colleagues and collaborate in an intuitive workspace
  • Track the progress of answers and implement quality controls
  • Import and export any type of sustainability request regardless the format
  • And much more 🙂

This means that you can easily reuse answers and evidence data for multiple requests, saving valuable time and effort. It also ensures that answers are consistent across different questionnaires and auditable when submitting the response. In addition, Sunhat helps you track trends and patterns, allowing you to refine your sustainability strategies and goals based on insights from all processed requests.

In conclusion, leveraging a software solution to manage sustainability requests is a smart move for sustainability teams who look to establish efficient processes and workflows around meeting their stakeholders’ requirements. This way, you can focus on driving your most impactful activities and initiatives, rather than being bogged down by manual processes.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with our expert team at Sunhat.

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