Thursday, December 7, 2023

FIELDAYS: Sector needs empathy

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Being a good human is the game and social licence is the name. Kellogg rural leader and social licence consultant Penny Clark-Hall puts her case.
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We must value our stakeholders and have empathy and respect for them, even those who challenge and disagree with us, if we are to have a social licence. 

A powerful way to earn your social licence to operate (SLO) is to align your values with those of your stakeholders. The value connection is where you find common ground, understanding, familiarity, respect and trust. 

The economic security achieved in New Zealand by the primary sector has now afforded us the ability to focus on our values rather than financial security. 

But values can be extremely divisive and are showing businesses and industry up every week. If you are out of sync with the general populace’s values and opinion the trust they have in you will start to wane.

We can all be tripped up by the passivity of our extended stakeholders, focusing on the readily available and agreeable ones.

The problem is, when an issue arises you don’t have a relationship to build solutions from.

If there’s no trust there your SLO can slip away before you’ve had a chance to engage to remedy the situation because you haven’t earned the right for them to listen to you. Reputations are hard to build and quick to be lost.

The people at the helm of your business or industry need to understand it takes a village and we are all a mere blimp in the industry or business we represent. 

Our stakeholders’ values can change and evolve over time. If we can’t co-exist and build relationships with those who are affected and can influence our business, the future is grim.

The challenge is to find empathy with all stakeholders, not just your number one fans. 

Everyone likes to feel listened to, respected and considered. If stakeholders are not made a genuine part of the process from the beginning a business can end up wasting a lot of time and money on assumptions. 

There are many examples of this in agriculture. 

We’ve got to start letting people in and asking them what they want.

Finding out what matters and affects them, not only shows you care but it gives you an opportunity to fix issues before they become a social licence issue. 

The term community capacity building is about empowering community stakeholders to be a part of the solution and is something I believe should be used by all businesses to create enduring solutions for their SLO. 

Acting on behalf of a community without consultation shows a complete lack of respect and consideration for those who can make or break your business. 

The world is moving and changing too fast for us not to have our finger on the pulse and understanding who our stakeholders are, what they value and how we affect them. 

A prime example is how NZ builds its trade relations with China. 

Before any trading can begin there is considerable investment that goes into building relationships. 

We all must put our stakeholder relationships first and I mean stakeholder in the broadest sense. 

Anyone who consumes our products or is reliant on the resources we use is a stakeholder in our business. They all deserve our respect and best efforts. Without them we don’t have a business.

To rebuild our SLO we need to be better humans.  We have control over only our good human moments so make them count. 

Penny Clark-Hall is the founder of NZ’s first social licence consultancy, which helps farmers and agribusinesses earn and maintain their social licence to operate.

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