When we, 'The Sustainability Board Report' advisory team, gathered as a group at the beginning of the pandemic, we did not anticipate our latest report to be titled: “COVID-19, The Acceleration of Stakeholder Centricity”. The original idea was to measure ‘corporate purpose’ and examine how purpose creates organisational resilience in times of crisis.
So, how did we get here? On our journey to measure corporate purpose we conducted various brainstorming sessions, collected data samples, and analysed various purpose statements with different methodologies, and quite frankly, philosophies. We were trying to develop a holistic measurement tool that uses proxy metrics that would be applicable to any corporation that has a defined purpose – we did not succeed.
Not only were we skeptic of various external data sources that, on paper, might have provided the data needed for our model, but we also realised that in order to successfully measure purpose you must be inside of a company. It’s a very individual thing.
Our journey of understanding corporate purpose in a more structured way has however, led to a focus on a business’ stakeholder ecosystem. Normally, four stakeholder groups are considered a critical variable to a company’s success:
‘Stakeholder Theory’ has been around for a while. Investigating it further in a crisis’s context seemed like a natural alternative to a hard measurement of purpose. COVID-19 is not only a global tragedy, but also a once in a lifetime opportunity to dissect and analyse change – with rolling 24/7 coverage of actions and initiatives.
And that’s what we focused on: Disclosure of actions taken by large companies relating to their stakeholder community. Our approach was pragmatic. We were only reporting on COVID-19 responses that companies have disclosed themselves. What stands out are the differences in treatment of the 4 main stakeholder groups.
We were keen to understand if there has been a shift towards a more sustainable and inclusive treatment of all stakeholders, and how that concerns corporate governance.