How Issue Management and Stakeholder Engagement will Save the Environment

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I ran across an article on GreenBiz recently that points out how mining for lithium is growing dramatically as the world moves to electric vehicles.

That makes sense since lithium is a key component of the vehicle’s battery.

What is interesting though is the emerging conflict about what is best for the environment. Robin Bolton, head of sustainability at Isometrix writes:

Lithium production requires moving large amounts of dirt and rocks, and consuming millions of gallons of water to extract this precious resource. This process has often unsettled ecosystems, threatened endangered species and disrupted nearby communities.

Does this set up an epic battle between different sub-groups of environmentalists? Each arguing that their perspective tells us which path is the best to pursue? Reduce greenhouse gas emissions using lithium in electric vehicle batteries, or protect the diversity of flora and fauna?

Thankfully, Bolton tells us that it’s a bit more complicated than that. It turns out that mining methods have improved over time. They have reduced in scale, introduced new technologies, and modified production processes. The footprint is smaller, less overburden (dirt and rocks) needs to be moved, and less water is required.

Using the latest techniques, lithium mining does not need to be so environmentally destructive, water consuming, noisy, or disruptive to local communities.

Here is where having a good issue management process helps natural resource companies. This structured process recognizes the gaps between a company’s (past) actions and stakeholder expectations. It also requires that the organization take concerted action to close those gaps.

If a mining company adopts new techniques that protect the environment and communities, it is evidence that some sort of issue management process is taking place. It does not need to be formal and drawn out. But if it is taken too lightly, the company will be slower than its competitors and lose out.

That is why good issue management involves top management and strategic planners as well as the influence functions.

That is why RIN highlights issue management as one of the Six Pillars of Radical Influence. Without a strong issue management process, it is difficult to manage a company in a way that can navigate key stakeholder objections.

But that’s not all. Just recognizing the issue and deciding to address it is not enough. If the company does not engage with community stakeholders, it will face continued resistance because people will be expecting the same degree of mining disruption and destruction of habitat.

Another component of the RIN Issue Management Pillar is required: active stakeholder engagement. By reaching out to each community and explaining how things will be different, the resistance can be addressed. Through interaction, expectations are changed and relationships developed so that the conversation can continue.

In this way, issue management and stakeholder engagement can definitely help save the environment.

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