10 Lessons for Engaging with Investors on Toxics

6. Investors can be adjunct staff or free labor ... to a point. If a company's just starting down the sustainability path or dealing with a new issue, knowledgeable investors can identify readily-available resources, such as a network of sustainability officers within the company's sector. Some of the best resources lie within the nonprofit community, and investors may know exactly where to find them. Investors can save both staff time and consulting costs.

7. Investors are eager to be educated. From the outside, investors might not see everything visible inside. Transparency builds understanding.

8. Where there are unknowns or differences of opinions, fact-finding and other measures can lead to shared problem-solving. It's "Getting to Yes" in practice.

9. As JohnsonDiversey (now Diversey) reminded readers of its 2007 Global Responsibility report [PDF], social responsibility involves treating "others the way you would like to be treated." Beneath all the jargon of stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility, and at a time when the phrase "civil society" increasingly sounds like an oxymoron, this is what it's all about.

10. Answer investors' letters or pick up the phone! Investors own stock in the company. Talk to them. This is "stakeholder relations 101!"

Richard A. Liroff, Ph.D., is founder and director of the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN). IEHN is a collaboration of investment managers that advocates for safer corporate chemicals policies to grow long-term shareholder value and reduce financial and reputational risks to companies. The business case for corporate safer chemicals policies, a list of shareholder resolutions on safer chemicals policies, and a roster of participants can be found on the IEHN website, www.iehn.org.

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