Lighthouse Action on
Social Justice Through
Stakeholder Inclusion
In collaboration with Business for Social
Responsibility (BSR) and Laudes Foundation
Executive summary
Section 1 Emerging corporate momentum on social justice and stakeholder inclusion
Section 2 Lighthouse examples
Conclusion: New frontiers and the next steps
Cover: Zubair Hussain, Unsplash – Inside: Getty Images, Laudes Foundation
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Lighthouse Action on Social Justice Through Stakeholder Inclusion 2
Business leaders are being called to act. The dual
crises of climate change and inequality, set against
the ravages of a global pandemic, have brought
into stark awareness the untenability of the status
quo. Demands have risen for governments to “build
back better”, towards a more just, regenerative
and decarbonized global economy. Business is
at the heart of this economy, and stakeholders
are increasingly turning to business leaders and
demanding that they too contribute to achieving this
new normal that centres social justice and equity
alongside care for the planet.
This paper, Lighthouse Action on Social Justice
Through Stakeholder Inclusion, is premised on the
notion that strong partnerships and collaborations
with stakeholders, including communities, workers
and civil society, are critical if we are to best achieve
outcomes that address and alleviate inequality. The
paper provides an initial roadmap of ways in which
businesses are addressing social justice and equity
through these partnerships: first, in making bold
new investments targeting impacted communities
in value chains; next, in influencing public policy
and speaking out as corporate citizens; finally,
in applying rigorous accountability practices and
sharing power with workers and communities in
their supply chains. The paper details examples of
leading efforts in each approach and provides an
understanding of the ways in which stakeholders
were included to help drive that changed behaviour.
It is critical to note that this paper is not focused
on how businesses must also ensure, through their
own operations and business relationships, clear
alignment with internationally agreed standards
and expectations, including the United Nations
Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
These standards are increasingly being reflected
in law, including through the strong momentum for
mandatory human rights and environmental due
diligence (mHREDD) across the EU.
This paper is instead a starting point for further
action – directed at addressing demands and
opportunities for business leaders to step up for
social justice and equity within the communities and
societies with which they engage. We hope that by
shining a light through the examples that follow, we
can accelerate action towards a new economy that
centres on the dignity and rights of each individual
and ensures respect and protection for the
environment. This is achievable. The time is now for
business to put social justice and equity into action.
Lighthouse Action on Social Justice
Through Stakeholder Inclusion
September 2021
Amol Mehra, Director, Industry
Transformation, Laudes Foundation
David Sangokoya, Head,
Civil Society and Social Justice,
World Economic Forum
L. Simone Washington,
Director, Diversity, Equity
and Inclusion, Business for
Social Responsibility (BSR)
Lighthouse Action on Social Justice Through Stakeholder Inclusion 3
Executive summary
The call for greater corporate responsibility for
people and planet is not new. In recent years,
the COVID-19 pandemic and a host of other
converging factors have catalysed an emerging
momentum in companies to recognize and
consider what they owe in their ecosystems, value
chains and communities – and to whom they
owe it. Addressing social justice issues through
greater inclusion of often marginalized and ignored
stakeholders has been widely discussed as
essential in “building back better” by businesses
and government.
As a result, many companies are asking questions
about how they could contribute to addressing
social justice and equity through meaningful
engagement with external stakeholders. This insight
report aims therefore both to inform corporate
leaders about potential approaches during this
moment and to provide deeper reflection on the
direction in which their actions must continue to
evolve towards greater systemic action.
The insight report presents nine “lighthouse
examples” illustrating three areas in which business
is partnering with communities and civil society to
accelerate action on equity and social justice:
In making new, bold investments targeting
impacted communities in value chains
and ecosystems
In influencing public policy and speaking out as
corporate citizens
In applying rigorous accountability practices and
sharing power with communities in their supply
chains and in the communities they affect
These case studies highlight four critical tenets that
are proving impactful in building corporate action on
social justice through stakeholder inclusion:
1. Stakeholder inclusion – through recognizing,
co-designing, partnering and learning with
impacted stakeholders – must be at the centre
of any corporate action on equity and social
justice in our unequal world.
2. Stakeholder inclusion is only the beginning
– positioning business on the path towards
redesigning business models that shift power
and value away from shareholder primacy.
3. Businesses should take a holistic view on equity
and social justice, in both promoting positive
outcomes and addressing their specific negative
effects related to inequities in their value chains.
4. Critical dialogue and knowledge-sharing are
needed to accelerate action beyond
this moment.
The pandemic shone a harsh light on the deep
inequalities in our society and opened the door to
a more equitable future. But in order to make that
future a reality, companies – along with governments
and civil society – must lean in and create real
change. It will take all sectors pulling together on
cutting-edge initiatives like these to propel us closer
to a more equitable tomorrow.
Laleh Ispahani, Managing Director, Open Society
Lighthouse Action on Social Justice Through Stakeholder Inclusion 4
We believe the actions we are committing to will make Unilever
a better, stronger business; ready for the huge societal changes
we are experiencing today – changes that will only accelerate.
Without a healthy society, there cannot be a healthy business.
Alan Jope, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever
Targeted engagements with communities in the value chain,
or companies actively influencing public policy to stand up
for inclusive economies, are welcome developments. But
to address the systemic risk of social inequality, we must
transform business’s role in society by moving away from a
model of externalized social impacts; we need businesses that
can profitably solve societal problems, without profiting from
societal harms. The expectation on business to act responsibly
is not new, but means placing people at the heart of business’s
models, purpose and value creation – a transformation we
want to create in collaboration with governments, civil society,
communities and business.
Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director, World Benchmarking
Lighthouse Action on Social Justice Through Stakeholder Inclusion 5