Stakeholder mapping

Stakeholder mapping is a key process for formalising your stakeholder engagement. Follow this four step process to establish a stakeholder map. Using a matrix to rate the factors that determine the relevance of each stakeholder group will provide another perspective on your business.

AccountAbility’s AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard specifies:

“In order to design stakeholder engagement processes that work, engagement owners need a clear understanding of who the relevant stakeholders are and how and why they may want to engage. The engagement owners need to understand not only the stakeholder group but also the individual stakeholder representatives.”

How you achieve this will, to some degree, will be determined by the size of your organisation. Assuming you don’t have huge resources at your disposal, what I suggest here is a pragmatic four step way to map stakeholders.

1.    Determine the factors that you will use to rate each stakeholder group. These might include:

  • statutory, or other responsibilities
  • their influence on your performance
  • your impact, or potential impact on them
  • geographical proximity,
  • their dependence on your business
  • any existing formal representation they may have on your business’s board or other committees and working parties
  • their relevance to your strategic intent
  • the potential for creating or enhancing shared value.

Select the factors that are most relevant in your first attempt. I especially recommend you include the last – creating or enhancing shared value. This is the factor that most aligns your stakeholder engagement with the win-win orientation of Sustainability 2.0.

2.   Create a matrix, with space for your stakeholder names in the first

broad stakeholder categories

column, and the factors you have chosen in the top row. In your first attempt, brainstorm to identify a list of stakeholders and then rank each factor, using a numerical scale, for each stakeholder group. I suggest a scale of 0 (no relevance) to 3 (high relevance). You might want to weight those factors that are critical so the numbers are potentially higher, but I recommend you start with unweighted factors to keep it simple – it will work. Here’s an example.

3.   Sort the matrix so stakeholders are ranked with those scoring highest at the top. Use a one-page matrix to consult with your colleagues (any more than one page makes the process too unwieldy). In meetings, conversations and workshops get your colleagues to rank stakeholders to establish a ranking that has broad consensus internally.

4.   Indentify your top 10 or so stakeholders and focus on these for the first year of formal engagement. This will pilot your processes and help to focus your engagement efforts with a range of stakeholders, and hopefully get some runs on the board. As you engage, you will unearth other stakeholders. In subsequent years, include stakeholders in this process and build from the initial 10 to a larger number.

As with other stakeholder engagement processes, some staff will find rating stakeholders challenging, as it requires them to consider their world from their stakeholder’s perspective. Expect this shift of perspective to be the first of many benefits from this process.


  1. Hi Peter – another valuable post – I have a saying (and an upcoming post) that “not all stakeholders are created equal”. Which is shorthand for what you have described, the importance of prioritising stakeholder segments/groups and aligning it with your overall strategy. Otherwise we could all spend a lot of time and resources doing the nice-to-do stuff but lose sight of the need-to-do stuff. Alexis

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