One positive outcome of the past few months is that it has given us the opportunity to do what we know we need to do well in our business – listen.

We have taken advantage of these unprecedented times to:

  • Pause and listen to our team members, clients, partners, and peers 
  • Organize focus group discussions and roundtables, and; 
  • Catch up with old friends and partners. 

In doing so, we have taken a step back to better understand the new challenges and opportunities we are facing as we help businesses manage social and environmental risks 

Over the years, we have developed expertise on topics such as stakeholder engagement, fair labor practices, indigenous community impacts, supply chain responsibility and environmental impacts. But so much has changed from the pandemic, forcing us to reflect on questions that redefine what it will take to thrive moving forward in each area.

  • Stakeholder consultation – How can we engage meaningfully without putting employees and stakeholders at risk of infection?  What technologies can we use to support more remote, yet transparent engagement?  And how can we deploy that technology in a way that does not put vulnerable groups at further disadvantage (promoting digital imperialism, for example)? 
  • Fair labor practices – How do we decide who are essential workers?  How can we ensure that “essential” does not just mean “expendable” when requiring workers to be on site during pandemic conditions?  What is business’ role in going beyond statements to monitor and demonstrate action in combatting racism in employment, security, communications and information management systems? 
  • Indigenous community impacts – What added controls are needed to prevent potentially-devastating impacts of infection in indigenous communities?  Is our engagement with these communities strong enough to support realistic contingency plans and communications if infection does spread? 
  • Supply chain impact/responsibility – Will the threat of disruptions force companies to simplify and shorten their supply chains?  How can they ensure new and more local suppliers have the capacity to meet international standards of labor and environmental care?  And can/should companies that are “partners of choice” do to take care of their suppliers during pandemics and emergencies? 
  • Environmental impact – Are contingency plans resilient enough to foresee and respond to extremely low likelihood/high impact incidents?  Are we measuring and mitigating increased waste generation and other environmental impacts forced by response to the pandemic? 

As the impact of the epidemic and economic restrictions start to subside in some parts of the world, we’re intent on listening and learning.  And as we do, we’re starting to help our clients develop and apply new approaches to solve emerging social and environmental risks.  Most recently, we’ve been: 

  • Applying remote community sensing and engagement technologies for community investment needs assessment in Guyana and social baseline study in Texas;
  • Solving workforce recruiting and retention challenges by understanding and strengthening US food producers’ relationships with vulnerable workforces and host communities;  
  • De-risking billion-dollar projects in North America and Brazil by recommending practices to bring indigenous community engagement practices into alignment with international lender standards 
  • Securing critical supply chain partner accused of employing slave labor by performing an independent assessment, providing worker rights training, and ultimately certifying the supplier 

In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to continuing to engage with our clients and partners and help them find sustainable answers to new challenges like this. But now more than ever, we commit to continuing to listen first. 

News & Notes

Acorn International

1702 Taylor St, Suite 200B
Houston, TX 77007, USA

1213 Purchase St
New Bedford, MA 02740, USA


Translate »