Systematically Involving Stakeholders
E.ON must balance the demands and interests of different groups in society (stakeholders), both globally and locally. This is why we have made stakeholder management a core process of our corporate management, and clearly set out the duties and responsibilities for the entire Group. A policy that applies Group-wide is instrumental in this effort.
We are in continual contact with all social groups important to us: Our customers and suppliers, policymakers, public administration and authorities, the general public and the media, environmental protection and social associations, employees and trade unions, business partners and competitors as well as investors. One of our challenges lies in balancing the sometimes conflicting expectations of our stakeholders in the areas of climate and environment protection, security of energy supply, job security and profitability. It is a responsibility we must master in a challenging market environment marked by increasing regulations and inevitable technological change.
We assess the relevance of stakeholders using a variety of criteria, including their needs and requirements, the issues they raise, their importance in shaping public opinion, and their position towards E.ON or a specific project. This evaluation takes place on two levels: at the project level, for instance when planning new facilities, or at Group level, carried out by central units such as Investor Relations and Energy Trading.
Standardized Framework for Stakeholder Management
We strive for open and consistent communication with our stakeholders. Our policy on stakeholder management offers a standardized framework for interacting with external stakeholders and employees. It lays down standards for the information we convey and regulates responsibilities, processes and instruments. This includes the transparent management of information and political dialog by the Group’s representatives.
The policy applies to all topics that we discuss with internal or external stakeholders, for example European regulation, technology and innovation, and strategic issues such as the acquisition of new subsidiaries or disposal of parts of the company. This also includes topics of regional significance. We intend to coordinate our communication activities efficiently. Therefore, the policy includes all functions, areas and units in the Group which have an interface with our stakeholders by setting out the internal roles and responsibilities.
The policy also describes how stakeholders are informed proactively about the environmental or social impacts of our projects. Besides these rather formal procedures, we implement structured dialogs with stakeholders in Power Forums, such as at our location in Datteln, Germany, where we consider their concerns. We revised our policy last year, particularly in regard to making the way in which we organize sustainability management more transparent. The new version comes into force on July 1, 2013. Moreover, we have adapted the responsibilities in the interaction between Group Management, global units and regional units in line with our new Group structure.
Stakeholder Involvement in Operational Business Activities
Stakeholder dialog is part of our day-to-day business processes. Stakeholder management coordinates contact between many E.ON functions, areas and units and the above-mentioned interest groups. We hold dialogs at different levels and as part of various formats, with our Health, Safety & Environment, Corporate Responsibility, Political Affairs, Communications, Investor Relations, Sales and Marketing, Purchasing, Business Compliance (including Corporate Governance), Licensing & Permitting as well as Human Resources (including relationships with trade unions) areas being involved the most. As part of our materiality process, selected employees from these areas regularly discuss expectations, derive common requirements for action, and implement relevant measures.
Stakeholder Management as a Part of Risk Management
The permission to operate our plants is not only granted by the responsible authorities. More importantly, the acceptance of society is required to build new plants and run our business − a “license to build and operate”. We therefore view the cultivation and maintenance of our relationships with stakeholders as an integral part of our risk management: During the dialog, we identify potential sources of conflict, but also new business opportunities. Transparent and trusting stakeholder relationships also make long-term infrastructure investments more secure and give us agility and foresight in our strategic fields of action. Here, the many different dialogs with stakeholders in our regional units are particularly important.
Typically, our regional units know the needs and requirements in their area the best. This is why they are the ideal point of contact for local stakeholders. They are also involved in regional dialog and participatory forums, for instance as part of projects for new facilities. Wider concerns, such as monitoring or the materiality process, are dealt with and further developed centrally. Group Management is responsible for dialog with stakeholders relevant to the Group. In some circumstances, global units also engage in stakeholder dialog such as when specific expertise is called for. In principle, we place a great deal of importance on transparency in the dialog with stakeholders. Moreover, through the Group-wide exchange of best practices, we are developing a common understanding of the importance and management of stakeholder dialogs.
Further Expanding Stakeholder Dialogs
Under the circumstances, we cannot always meet all competing expectations equally well; this is why we intend to further improve and expand our dialogs in the future. To achieve this, at Group level we have made it our aim in our Sustainability Work Program to focus our efforts even more strongly in future on addressing our stakeholders’ expectations with the additional intention of incorporating them into our reporting and strategy development. In 2012 we held a multi-stakeholder dialog at a Power Forum in Hessen, Germany, and roughly a further 40 events in Germany as part of our E.ON in Dialog initiative.
Guided by the AA1000 standard developed by AccountAbility, we are working toward the long-term goal of anchoring its principles of:
- Materiality (relevance of topics to stakeholders),
- Inclusivity (inclusion of stakeholders in strategy development) and
- Responsiveness (reaction to stakeholder concerns and willingness to participate in a dialog and take action)
more firmly in our stakeholder relations.