One of the keys to a successful environmental management program is building and managing relationships. The purpose of this proceeding is to explore ways to build positive relationships with groups and individuals who have a stake in your organization's environmental activities. These stakeholders include your employees, the media, local community groups and authorities, industry associations, environmental organizations and government regulators.
Planning is the basis for building successful community and regulatory relationships in environmental management. The plan should include identification of the individuals and groups you want to build relationships with, the methods by which you want to develop and grow those relationships, and the techniques for maintaining the relationships.
The first step in building relationships is to identify and reach potential contacts in your community and to maintain your relationships with those contacts. Contacts can be anyone who will communicate your message and will help you build trust with your target audience - the community. Begin by brainstorming to identify groups with which you wish to associate and build relationships. From each group, select a contact person who you feel will best serve as a key liaison between you and their organization. Examples of good representatives include an employee advocate, a local politician or public authority, an industry expert, a reporter covering your industry, or a government official.
Establishing contacts merely scratches the surface of building effective relationships. You should strive to be active in relationships, rather than passive or reactive. Actively engage in conversation and show interest in their professional and personal lives; this will help build trust. Don't wait for them to contact you. Advance the relationship with occasional e-mails or phone calls, and they will soon reciprocate. It is important to always respond and meet specific requests. Also, your plan should include a method of tracking your interactions with your contacts, such as maintaining a log or journal.
Your plan should include the many groups and individuals sharing interest in your organization. The key is forging positive relationships with those most involved and invested in your organization. The five main groups, or stakeholders, with whom you should begin building relationships, are Employees, Media, Community, Industry Associations and Environmental Organizations, and Regulatory Agencies.
Employees are the people with the most vested interest in your organization's environmental programs. This is because they use and are exposed to the programs more than anyone. It is important to keep them updated about how your organization's environmental programs benefit them. Employees also serve as representatives of your company in your community. They often communicate informal messages about the organization to their families, friends and the rest of the community. People will believe what they hear from your employees because they are "insiders" of your business. This makes it crucial to properly inform employees about issues concerning your environmental programs.