The key to corporate diplomacy

Listening to the demands of multiple audiences is the first step to healthy partnerships with your stakeholders.

Corporate diplomacy: what is it and why do it? Let us take as our starting-point the definition given by Witold Henisz talking about his new Wharton book on the subject:

Corporate diplomacy is the senior-level capability to build and maintain relationships with external stakeholders and deliver on the greatest needs or the greatest objectives of those stakeholders in a way that delivers shareholder value. This sounds like a familiar enough win-win approach but the difference is that it starts with the objectives of the stakeholder. Often business leaders are so focussed on their own goals that they do not start from the bigger picture. I have learnt from working for government in British embassies around the world and in two multinationals (Unilever and Anglo American) that taking the time to understand the underlying motivation of stakeholders makes a major difference.

In each case, the temptation is to think that you (and what you want) are what matters whereas for others this is at best a distraction… unless it then happens to emerge in the context of what they themselves want to achieve. Let me set out some concrete examples from my current job at Anglo American.

The recent campaign for stricter international legislation on transparency in the extractive sector persuaded G7 governments of their case for enforced detailed disclosure adding the bonus that if the profit from the host countries’ natural resources could be more equitably and openly distributed locally, then less overseas development assistance would be needed in the future. This would create a win-win for all sides (except rightly for any parties benefiting unfairly), overall governance would be improved, foreign direct investment would replace overseas development assistance and the fight against poverty would be given a sustainable boost.

Richard Morgan

Richard Morgan is head of government relations at Anglo American London. Before joining Anglo American in October 2010, Richard  was head of public diplomacy at the British Foreign Office from 2008. Prior to that, he was seconded from the Foreign Office to Unilever as their head of public affairs for Africa, Middle East and Turkey from 2005 to 2008. Richard began his career in the Foreign Office in London in 1984. He was posted to the British embassies in Tokyo (1986-1990), South Africa (1995-2000) and Paris (2000-2004). In between he was in the Foreign Office in London from 1990 to 1995 working in the Middle East and North Africa Department and the communications/press team.