The key concern for the large firms is to address their stakeholders’ needs. Who are the stakeholders? They are the clients, the firm’s own staff, the firm’s suppliers and the public at large.
The emergence of worldwide communications, commercial globalisation and stakeholder activism have turned the management, protection and enhancement of reputation into the greatest and most complex corporate challenge of the era.
In turn, stakeholders demand more information and accountability so firms will need to report their work to demonstrate the reality.
Firms are describing their relationships with stakeholder groups, as well as encouraging constructive dialogue with them.
PwC is the first professional services firm to take stakeholder dialogue to its natural progression.
The firm has launched a dedicated website, called PwC talking, which aims to explore and understand the relationship the firm has with its diverse UK stakeholders. It concentrates on the firm’s work with clients, its own people and the community, and actively seeks feedback from users on specific topics or on general issues.
UK senior partner Peter Smith says: ‘Pressure has been growing on businesses to demonstrate their command of a wider range of responsibilities than traditionally demanded.
‘We may not be under pressure to answer to external shareholders, but we still have a complex and varied set of stakeholders with whom we should and must communicate. That’s why we’ve developed PwC talking. It’s the first step towards showing what contribution we are making.’
The site features an introduction to PwC and explains the firm’s approach to stakeholder dialogue. One aim is to turn the mirror on itself to provide a fuller picture of PwC’s performance in relation to its key impacts on society.Other sections then deal with the firm’s impact on its stakeholders and provide links to other websites – both within the firm and externally.
The areas of the site are broken down into five sections.
The site examines PwC’s contribution to major challenges facing clients including e-business, corporate reporting and industry convergence. It also reveals what the firm’s clients think about its performance.
Key aspects of the firm’s impact on its 20,000 UK people are examined including recruitment, learning, personal development and work-life balance. It invites comments from staff and other stakeholders.
PwC talking takes a detailed look at the firm’s extensive work with, and for, the local communities, including the millennium project 1Kby2K supporting the Prince’s Trust charity. The site includes comments from community partners.
Helping business do business
A look at how PwC is helping to create the right environment for conducting business, making sure that both clients and the firm can operate effectively.
Although the firm’s environmental footprint is relatively small, the site examines a number of areas where the firm does have an impact.For their part, stakeholders are taking a close interest in how firms such as PwC and their reputation measure up to their criteria. Crucially, clients and other stakeholders reserve the right to withdraw their business or resources if they believe firms do not measure up.
With Ernst & Young having no plans to introduce a similar scheme and KPMG offering a paper-based report for stakeholders to offer their thoughts on, the rest of the Big Five will need to catch up if they believe the web can make a difference.
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