A few weeks ago, we at GlobeScan successfully facilitated our first collaboration forum in Brazil for the beverage company Brasil Kirin. This online dialogue brought together stakeholders and experts from all regions of the country to talk about the material issues facing the company, understand the different perspectives and priorities of each stakeholder group, and to help set strategic priorities for the coming years.
Brasil Kirin first developed its materiality matrix in 2013 and will now use the results of this collaboration forum as the foundation for a broader materiality review process. We discussed in separate sessions the company’s main environmental impacts, including water use and packaging, its socioeconomic challenges such as impacts in the communities surrounding its factories and supply chain management, and challenging issues such as responsible drinking, communications, and innovation.
Although GlobeScan has already moderated several forums in Europe and North America using this online collaboration approach, this one featured several new aspects. It was the first time we organized a collaboration forum in South America, conducted entirely in Portuguese, and it was also the first time it has been done for materiality assessment purposes. During six hours of discussion, nearly 150 participants posted more than 1,100 comments. We worked with our partner in Brazil, Report Sustentabilidade, who was instrumental in building a valuable stakeholder list.
Readers of our blog know that we have been talking about why collaboration forums are so compelling for some time now. At GlobeScan, we work with leading global companies that have already realized that collaboration is critical when trying to tackle the significant issues of our time. The greatest surprise for me, as one of the dialogue moderators, was to read comments from internal and external stakeholders who were full of excitement – and even gratitude – for the opportunity to speak their minds and to be heard. The other organizers and hosts who were with me in the “control room” were overwhelmed by the participants’ willingness to collaborate and contribute to a positive and constructive discussion.
Beverage companies can often be subject to critical and pessimistic sentiment arising from their association with alcoholic and sugary drinks. Although our dialogue touched on all of the challenging issues facing the industry, no such negative feelings were part of the conversation. Participants were clearly interested in using this opportunity to guide Brasil Kirin in identifying the most critical issues and setting its priorities, rather than criticizing the company. Of course, that is not to say we did not read comments suggesting that “there is a lot more the company can do.” Stakeholders and experts provided excellent suggestions, ideas and insights as to how Brasil Kirin can continue to make progress and effectively achieve sustainable leadership. Brasil Kirin eagerly took note of such comments and will take them into consideration when developing its action plan in the coming months.
This event proved yet again that online text-based discussions can be an essential engagement tool in breaking barriers, shortening distances, and building trust among all stakeholders. It also demonstrated that collaboration forums can be effective for many different engagement purposes, and that when companies are open and willing to listen to their stakeholders, the prevailing cooperative spirit can have surprising and lasting effects.