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Robert Court – Global Stakeholder Strategies

Selected areas of political/stakeholder expertise and experience

How I work – The Golden Rules

General approach to business related political/ stakeholder work

  • Ensure political/stakeholder issues are recognised as integral to the business.
  • Embed political/stakeholder factors – both risks and mitigation options – in core business systems: Board/Executive/Investment Committees, due diligence, business development, M&A, country risk premia, new country entry, crisis management. 
  • Work with the commercial leadership to define precise business objectives, both pro-active and defensive.  
  • Ensure that resources are correctly viewed as a value driver rather than a cost.  Measure all that can usefully be measured.
  • Map formal and informal decision-makers/influencers with the power to enhance or destroy value; develop bespoke engagement plans for all the major ones.
  • Wherever possible build lasting relationships based on understanding and trust. Back this up as needed with more muscular elements.  Avoid surprises.
  • Execute plans comprehensively and accurately.  
  • Get the in-country and corporate/global balance right.

Policy work

  • Invest in substantive, well-regarded policy work which can be leveraged to get a “seat at the table” and influence outcomes.
  • Examples worked on: intellectual property rights; healthcare reforms; public private partnerships; investment climate; pricing; taxation and other imposts; transparency; local content; benefit sharing; human rights; sustainable development; energy policy and climate change; trade policy.
  • Decide when to work as a single firm, with a small group of peers, or through a larger industry association.
  • Pick respected partners to work with – international organisations such as Bretton Woods, OECD, G7, G20, EU; academics; civil society groups. 

Geo-political priority setting

  • Define and agree Group-wide criteria to determine which regions and countries are of key importance, and why.  Include global “influence centres”.
  • Apply these criteria as a form of “triage” to ensure that time and resources are focused on those jurisdictions of the greatest relevance to value.
  • For major jurisdictions, get all parts of the business engaged – production, sales, procurement, JV partners, R&D, external affairs etc – aligned on a coherent overall Group strategy with a small number of clear objectives.
  • Use this to drive Executive Committee alignment and support, mandate for a country head, steering committee, advisory panel, resourcing etc as warranted. 
  • Example: Rio Tinto selected ca 40 countries grouped into three tiers and used this to drive Group-level governance for each of the Tier 1 and selected Tier 2 countries/regions.

Mainstreaming political/stakeholder capabilities

  • Build understanding that stakeholder engagement cannot be left to a small specialist team.  Like safety, everyone has a role to play.
  • Bespoke training with case studies and role play to help senior managers and those with external-facing roles understand the need to consider how the world looks to other people, and how to reflect this in decision-making. 
  • Anchor this skill-set as part of leadership selection and training.
  • Example: Stakeholder Engagement Academy developed by Rio Tinto in partnership with Georgetown University and INSEAD plus global academic partners.

Other areas:

  • China.  Personal involvement in major crisis management and recovery, including transitional leadership of Rio Tinto’s Beijing Office.
  • Crisis prevention and management. Ensure political/stakeholder issues and capabilities are core to crisis work.  Manage this effectively, including the interface with legal/regulatory/compliance, media/comms etc.
  • Build and manage political/stakeholder teams and networks.  Design core central team and country/business unit capacity; get the diversity of the team/network right; identify/recruit/mentor the right talent; network it together to deliver “joined up” approach.
  • Leverage US, UK, EU, other political influence, international organisations, civil society.  Build effective “coalitions of the willing” by aligning incentives with firm’s commercial goals.
  • Manage the in-house and advisory interface.  Help firms make the right choices of expert advisory services and to have the in-house systems and capabilities needed to make good use of it.

Sample Network Activities


Critical Resources

Thinking the Unthinkable

Stakeholder Engagement Training

FT Political Risk Summit