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Chapter 5: Local Action Plan
Stakeholder Engagement

This section describes what municipalities can do to engage their stakeholders.  In a democracy, four groups (local governments including their city staff, community members, organizations and activists, business leaders and citizens) will have a stake in any program to protect the climate, and should be involved in the creation of the plan. Whether your city has decided to engage stakeholders in the goal setting process or has decided to announce a climate protection agreement as an executive action, learning how to engage the various people in your community who will be interested is an important step in developing and following through with Climate Action Plan programs. Many of the programs described in this manual can only be done with the support and enthusiasm of the community.  See the menu on the left for other sections within Chapter 5.

The below table of contents is "click-able" if you wish to jump to different sub-sections on this page.

Government Leaders and Municipal Staff
Non- profit Organizations and Local Activists
Business Leaders.
Community Members
Stakeholder Engagement Strategies
 - LASER Stakeholder Recruitment
 - Tools of Change:  Social Marketing to Engage Stakeholders
Business for Social Responsibility:  Organizational Stakeholder Engagement

Additional Resources

[DOWNLOAD] the "Stakeholder Engagement" section of Chapter 5 (340 KB .pdf)

Stakeholder Engagement


In a democracy, four groups (local governments including their city staff, community members, organizations and activists, business leaders and citizens) will have a stake in any program to protect the climate, and should be involved in the creation of the plan.  Whether your city has decided to engage stakeholders in the goal setting process or has decided to announce a climate protection agreement as an executive action, learning how to engage the various people in your community who will be interested is an important step in developing and following through with Climate Action Plan programs.  Many of the programs described in this manual can only be done with the support and enthusiasm of the community.

Government Leaders and Municipal Staff

If you are reading this manual it is likely that you are already engaged in Climate Protection.  To ensure that your town makes climate protection a priority, it will be necessary to involve city officials and staff.

Mayors who sign the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement (MCPA)[1] commit themselves to reduce GHG emissions.  In most cities, however, programs to achieve reductions will be implemented by city staff.  These individuals will oversee programs to save energy, to educate the public, and to work with the community.  They will measure the impacts of programs, and will make adjustments as the programs unfold.  Staff members may know little at first about global warming or the science behind it.  An internal education program to bring city staff up to speed on the issue is important.  With support of local non-profits, such educational materials as this manual, trainings, and attendance at conferences and workshops, staff can get the support they will need to implement a successful Climate Action Plan.  Resources for city staff are listed at the end of this chapter.

A good first step is to determine whether your community has signed the MCPA.  If not, consider whether your Mayor might be interested in joining the over 355 mayors around the country who have.

Research has shown that even in many of the cities in which the mayor signed the MCPA, city staff members were unaware of this and uncertain how to proceed.[2]  Remember that in any entity as large as a city government, there are differences of opinion, and a whole array of historical vested interests.  Often climate protection programs originate in an environmental office, or an executive office.  Officials in public works, utility services, vehicle operations and other departments may not view proposed changes as enthusiastically.  It will be important to ensure that these people are given a way to get involved, that their opinions are heard and their expertise solicited.

Even if a mayor has signed the Agreement, city staff may be unsure which steps to take next.  One of the first actions to consider is to embody the commitment in a formal resolution of the city government.[3]  Passing such a resolution not only highlights the importance of climate change to elected officials.  It also offers an opportunity to educate the public and the local government staff while laying out a plan of action and implementation.  Some cities have proceeded without such a resolution, but going through the political process to make the Agreement official will help give it legitimacy and longevity.

Resolutions that cities have passed may be helpful models for government staff:

  • For a sample resolution outlining a city’s commitment, view the city of Seattle Resolution.[4]

  • View a sample resolution[5] from a city participating in ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. 

  • The sample above can be modified to include language specific to a particular community.  See how the city of Carbondale, Colorado[6] has personalized its resolution.

City staff has the power to place climate protection as a high priority, or to undermine efforts even if the mayor believes this should be a focus.  Helping staff to understand the importance of the issue, their role in achieving climate protection and how this can improve their work on behalf of their community can dramatically strengthen a program.

Non- profit Organizations and Local Activists

Many non-profit organizations work on climate protection, from the local level to the national stage.  Some groups bring pressure for change, while others provide excellent information.  Some can even provide financial support for carbon reduction programs.  For example, the information in this manual is available due to the partnership between Natural Capitalism Solutions a non-profit, and Paradigm Nouveau, a L.L.C., for-profit company.  The city of Ballard, Washington’s ‘carbon neutral’ goals are being put forth and implemented by the local non-profit, Net Green.  Many NGOs, local and national non-profits can bring specialized resources to help stakeholder groups in planning and implementation.  The city of Denver, Colorado conducted its carbon baseline by using local university students, supervised by a professor working with city staff.  Many houses of worship have made climate protection a priority, reducing the energy that they use, holding educational programs for their members and speaking out on the issue.  Program planning efforts will benefit from inviting all interested elements of civil society to be involved at the earliest possible stage.


Business Leaders

Business and community leaders should be invited to participate in a climate protection program at the earliest possible moment.  Often business leaders are ignored as such programs are developed, and may feel that proposed changes will negatively impact their businesses.  In fact, many carbon reduction programs will save businesses money and will strengthen the entire economy, but unless the business case is explained, the commercial sector may react negatively.  The Business Case for Climate Protection section in the Why Act Now chapter of this manual contains information that can be provided to members of the business community.  The early participation of business and community leaders will significantly improve chances for success.

Community Members

Finally, even the most aggressive program will fail unless citizens understand and give it legitimacy.  It is crucially important to educate and involve citizens at every step of a climate protection process.  Many mayors have taken a leadership role by signing the Climate Protection Agreement.  But achieving reductions, especially significant ones will depend on the willingness of the public to participate.

Like business leaders, many citizens may feel that protecting the climate will cost them money, require higher taxes, stifle their quality of life and otherwise bring changes that they will not like.  It is important to explain how reducing the use of energy saves money, increases community security, strengthens the economy and can be achieved with a minimum of disruption.  It is also worth helping the community to understand the significant disruption that will come from allowing global warming to continue.  An educated citizenry is one of the best assets that any community can have.

Stakeholder Engagement Strategies

Cities can take many approaches to engage its stakeholders.  This manual presents several strategies so that you can determine which one works best for you.  The following three strategies:  LASER, Tools of Change and Businesses for Social Responsibility lay out specific steps organizations can follow to engage their stakeholders.  Each have a different audience and purpose, but follow similar processes.

LASER, Local Action for Sustainable Economic Renewal, created by Global Community Initiatives[7] and Natural Capitalism Solutions[8] was developed for use in communities interested in economic renewal and in developing sustainability programs.  This free tool offers an array of best practices, tools and templates that communities throughout the world can use.  You can download it for free through an interactive web site.[9]  In the first chapter, LASER describes the stakeholder recruitment process and the importance of creating a community vision to bring the community together and motivate it to achieve its goal.

Tools of Change[10] is founded on the principles of community-based social marketing, The web site offers specific tools, case studies, and a planning guide to help people take actions and adopt habits that promote health and/or are more environmentally-friendly.  The web site includes the best practices of many other programs - practices that have already been successful in changing people's behavior.  The planning guide describes the step-by-step processes necessary to change a community’s behaviors.  This site also provides information on clear tools to use in addressing different audiences.

Business for Social Responsibility[11] (BSR) is a non-profit organization that provides information, tools, training and advisory services to make corporate social responsibility an integral part of a business’ operations and strategies.  BSR describes the importance of engaging the business community, beyond just “touching base.”  It provides clear implementation steps to achieve success.  It is especially important to present the business case for climate protection (see Chapter 2 of this manual for how to present this).  Showing how the climate change programs described in this manual make business and financial sense is an important message.  A strong program is much easier to deliver to local businesses, residents and city planners if it makes economic as well as environmental sense.

LASER Stakeholder Recruitment

The following is adapted from LASER’s Stakeholder Recruitment and Community Visioning Process.[12]  Although LASER was written with a focus on community sustainability and economic renewal, not specifically climate protection, the stakeholder engagement process has proven successful in communities around the world.

The first step in the process of developing necessary leadership is to identify and recruit the stakeholders from the community who have an active interest in a sustainable future.  The legitimacy of the process will depend, in part, on who is doing the recruiting and how the Stakeholder Group derives its legitimacy.  No matter who you are—mayor, municipal employee, business leader, community activist—you need allies to enable a major carbon reduction effort to succeed.

Step One:  Gather a Core Team

The Core Team could be as small as three people, but should not be much larger than seven to ten.  It should include people who have credibility within the community.  Ideally, it will ideally reflect experience from such sectors as business, government and civil society.  The Core Team should agree on the general direction of the project and work to become a functional unit before reaching out to the rest of the community.  At a minimum, those you select for your Core Team should have thoughtful and optimistic personalities, good interpersonal skills and a capacity to have fun together while getting hard work done.

Consider the following sources of potential candidates:

  • Local activists within or outside local government

  • Members of governmental boards or commissions

  • Leaders of organizations dedicated to community improvement

  • Leaders of organizations working on environmental issues

  • Local Service Clubs: Rotary, Lions, etc.

  • Local youth leaders

  • Businesses that benefit most from a healthy community

  • Leaders of Faith Communities

The initial responsibilities of the Core Team include:

  • Identifying the scope of the project

  • Developing a budget and planning schedule

  • Recruiting a Stakeholder Group

  • Identifying the other plans and processes that need to be integrated

  • Preparing the materials and presentations that will be used to invite others to participate.

Step Two:  Gather Stakeholder Group[13]

A Stakeholder Group gathers a representative number of interested parties together.  A group of 30-40 people is an effective size, but it can be as many as a couple hundred, depending on the needs of the community.  This group will provide the leadership in creating a shared vision and plan for local climate protection.  In addition to a broad cross-section of the community, the Stakeholder Group can include all the various town leaders—department heads, for example, and the heads of significant local institutions.  They all will benefit when others see the links between what they do and the value they add to the community as a whole.

Stakeholder Organizations to Take Into Consideration:

Different Businesses

  • Small, medium and large businesses

  • CO2 intensive and non-intensive businesses

  • Businesses with old and new technology that addresses climate

Organized civil society groups

  • Schools and universities

  • Service organizations

  • Churches

  • Environmental Groups

To recruit business leaders to the process, it is important to understand what will motivate them.  For example businesses may be more motivated by other business leaders than government or community organizations, so recruiting a prominent business person early on increases the likelihood of others becoming involved.  Giving the business people credit and publicity for their involvement will appeal to their interests.  Be prepared to take. some additional time and effort to meet with different business people, get their feedback and suggestions for how the process should work, and help them understand all the benefits of a more vibrant local economy.  

You may want to set up special meetings initially for various stakeholder groups, to help them feel at home in the process and have a voice in the way it is structured.  This may mean meeting for breakfast instead of in the evenings, for example and having very specific and short agendas with clear outcomes.  Empowerment—the clear connection between what people suggest and decide and the way a pubic process works—is one of the most successful ways to engage people and keep them engaged.  Disempowerment—overriding decisions that don’t fit with the style of city leadership or reversing course midstream without consultation—is an equally sure way to make people drop out of processes like this.

Step Three:  Develop Group Process Skills

Once the Stakeholder Group has been convened, it is important that they develop a shared idea about how they will work together, how meetings will be conducted, what the planning schedule will be and how conflict will be resolved. 

Step Four:  Learn to Manage Conflict and Make Decisions[14]

All teams must recognize the need for non-violent approaches to relationships, both within their groups and in the community at large.  Moreover, the members of these groups will need to accept a responsibility for helping community members to communicate peacefully, no matter how impassioned they may be.

It is also helpful to have decision-making structures articulated in advance, so conflict will not emerge simply because the decision-making process is unclear or ineffective.  The exact form that conflict resolution and decision-making procedures will take can vary depending on the group involved and its particular constraints.  Part of any conflict management procedure should be a clear articulation of the Vision Statement, Mission and conflict resolution criteria.  Achieving agreement on these matters in advance makes it possible to guide decisions through any later conflict that may arise. 

Participatory Visioning

It is important to first create a shared vision for the community as a whole, one that looks into the future and captures the collective aspirations of the people.  To achieve the goal of a democratically-created local vision, you will need to inspire and motivate your fellow citizens—not only to support the vision, but to take an active role in defining it.

A vision is a positive forecast of the way we want the world to be, an affirmation of values and hopes, an image of the destination to guide our journey.  The language of the Vision must be simple enough so anybody can understand and get excited about it.  It must reflect shared values and convincingly depict a community changed for the better.  The process of defining your Vision should be future oriented, and allow people to bring their imagination, their creativity and their hearts.

When visioning processes work, they motivate people to conceive new ventures and new activities, to create unexpected opportunities that would not have arisen if it weren’t for the collective creativity put to work and the new connections made.  Visions that reflect the community’s aspirations can generate goals that people will want to work for, and make it easier to develop practical strategies and targets.

How is it possible to articulate a shared vision for an entire community?  This is a huge task, and one that can easily fail if you don’t take the time to engage the whole community in the process.

Not only must a vision reflect the core values of the people, it must come from the people.  A vision statement drafted by a few people in leadership—even with the best intentions—will never engender the sense of ownership and common purpose that comes from full community participation.  That is why it is important to work through the public participation process.

Depending on the size of your community, recruiting participation can be done by asking the community to submit vision statements through the media, or holding a community meeting where individuals can voice their opinions, etc.

The public participation process can generate an enormous amount of information about what people want to see in the future.  In the city of Calgary, over 18,000 people answered the questions the Stakeholder Group asked the community—online, at festivals, in schools, during meetings, on the street, in their workplaces, in their utility bills and in the newspapers.  Your Stakeholder Group will have to find a way to compile and digest all the information that is collected.  The more successful the public participation activities have been, the more daunting this project will be.

The Stakeholder Group might want to set up a subcommittee to read all the information and prepare a report.  This subcommittee could also take responsibility for preparing the first draft of a vision statement.

Even if the vision is properly developed, truly reflecting the hopes and aspirations of the community, it can still fail in its purpose if the leaders don’t “get it”—if they see it only as words on paper.  A leadership that shares the vision will respond to its community with excitement and a sense of possibility.  Among citizens, likewise, an inspiring vision statement can create a wellspring of energy and commitment.

Creating Excitement and Momentum

The basic premise of this approach is that genuine community transformation is built on vision, imagination, courage and other human qualities that unite us across our differences.  People do not necessarily get excited about a meeting to discuss new types of loan funds, but they do care about preserving what is special about their home towns.  They care about their own ideas being heard in the process.  In every stage of your activities, from initial surveying to the final adoption of the plan, you can draw on the creative and spiritual resources of your community through the arts, celebrations, challenges, friendly competition and even humor. 

Asking the Right Questions 

One of the first tasks a Stakeholder Group can take on is to develop a set of questions to elicit meaningful feedback from the community about the future in general.  This is not so much to gather data as it is to identify hopes and dreams (the data will come later).  The questions should be broad in nature, but can also touch on specific issues.  The important thing is to keep the questions open-ended and positive.  In this way, even comments about problems can contain the seeds of their own solutions.  The following visioning questions were used successfully by the city of Calgary’s imagine Calgary Project:

  • What do you care about in Calgary that you want to pass on to future generations?

  • What is it like for you to live here?

  • What changes would you most like to see?

  • What are your hopes and dreams for Calgary in 100 years?

  • How could you make this happen?

Examples of Climate Related Questions that would work well:

  • How could climate change influence our community?

  • How can you reduce the use of energy?

  • What are ways our community could benefit from energy efficiency, renewable fuels, or less traffic?

  • How could you contribute to protecting our climate?

Notice how the questions are positive, action oriented and personal.  This is the type of inquiry that will elicit the most useful information.

Establishing a campaign theme can help to galvanize public interest in creating a Vision. 

Seattle Washington, for example, named their initiative “Sustainable Seattle.”  Many communities pick a year on the horizon—maybe 20 or 30 years in the future—and incorporate that.  Hamilton, Ontario calls their effort “VISION 2020.”  All your efforts at this stage will emphasize the future of the community.

Ideas for Public Participation

As noted earlier, your planning project will gain real political support if the broader public understands and supports it.  The Stakeholder Group should identify messages they want each member to convey to his or her own constituency, from business to labor to youth to neighborhood interests.

Beyond this targeted approach, broad community involvement is also essential.  To create this, you need to make creative use of a variety of resources, including mainstream and community media, publicity efforts, events, and visuals.  This public participation campaign will establish the spirit of genuine two-way communication.  The trick is to create a buzz and find new ways to listen to people at the same time. 

Here are some examples to improve community involvement:

  • Invite ideas:
    Put up a big suggestion box in front of town hall, and ask a popu­lar radio commentator to read a suggestion each week.  Have an essay contest on topics related to global warming—what are the risks of the future in the community, or how your community could be the “Climate Protection Capital of the World”.  Create contests for ideas or change within school systems.

    Put up a big suggestion box in front of town hall, and ask a popu­lar radio commentator to read a suggestion each week.  Have an essay contest on topics related to global warming—what are the risks of the future in the community, or how your community could be the “Climate Protection Capital of the World”.  Create contests for ideas or change within school systems.

    Start a community-wide Internet listserv.  Develop a web page on which anyone can contribute his or her thoughts, events and community building ideas.  Do training with local high school students on using interactive software and ask them to help their parents get involved.

    Facilitate the organization of citizen-led meetings to mobilize public participation in identifying community priorities.  Elect representative community development groups to plan local initiatives and build dialogue and cooperation with local governments.

  • Good news:
    Start sending press releases to local papers, telling them about good things that have happened and people who have made a difference—from the students who are turning out lights in classrooms to the elders who are switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs downtown.  As your climate protection initiative generates ideas and makes people aware of the good work already going on, this can become a steady source of good news.  Follow up with reporters and editors and keep your eyes open for advertising sponsors to underwrite their coverage.

    Pull together the artists in your community for a public art event to create the future.  Find a big canvas that everyone can draw on.  Make musical instruments available for improvisation.  Bring recycled materials for people to make sculptures.  Have lots of food and activities for young children.

    Every single community has something it can celebrate.  Find an excuse for a party, line up some local sponsors, and celebrate what the community will look like in 5, 10, or 20 years.  A futuristic birthday party.  Have a parade.  Invite politicians to dress like they’ll look in 15 years.  Invite young people to be the politicians for a day.  Make a huge paper maché statue in the middle of town to commemorate the celebration.

    People like a challenge.  They like friendly competition, and demonstrating what they do well.  Sponsor a prize for the local business with the highest score on energy efficiency.  Give awards to people who have made the world safe for our grandchildren.

  • Humor:
    Find ways to make people laugh, from street theatre to standup comedy.  The tough issues facing communities may not be funny, but our mistakes dealing with them usually are.

    Climate activists have been preaching environmental disaster as a sole motivator for far too long.  People are not motivated by fear and guilt as effectively as they are by hope and novelty.

The main message about engaging all sorts of different groups that can be considered “the public” is to go to them and meet them on their terms, rather than having them come to you.  Ask to be put on the agenda for their regular meetings; attend the festivals and functions; get invited to speak at their clubs, churches, synagogues, mosques and community suppers—all of these are as important as holding meetings at city hall.

Within the business community it is important to appeal to the things that businesses find important.  Find ways to promote those businesses that are participating in your project, such that other businesses want to get on the bandwagon.  Full page ads with business logos, news stories about how a particular business is cutting its emissions, awards to businesses for innovation, future thinking, community service—all of these techniques will help you win credibility and participation from a group that is often slow to get involved. 

Portland, Oregon does this by awarding the BEST (Businesses for Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow) award each year to seven different companies demonstrating excellence in business practices that promote economic growth and environmental benefits. 

They post the winners on their web site and hold an award ceremony to present the award to each winning organization.[15]

Completing the Vision

Once the stakeholders have come up with a draft vision statement, bring it back to the community to discover whether it captures their ideas adequately.  Publishing it in the paper with an easy way to respond, discussing it at city council meetings, holding meetings with many of the same groups that contributed at the outset—all of these techniques can help the Stakeholder Group determine if what they have drafted successfully reflects the aspirations of the community.

The Vision should be a short, inspirational, compelling statement about what the community wants for the future.  Ideally, it will reflect all the different aspects of community life, not just economic goals.  This is because a climate protection effort will find its most promising initiatives in things that meet the broad spectrum of human needs.

The following excerpt for Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Climate Protection Plan[16] is a good example of how a vision statement around climate protection can be worded.

Vision Statement[17]

In 2025, we see our world and city doing things better and smarter.  We live and work in “energy smart” buildings that use readily available technology to maximize energy efficiency.  Computerized controls on heating, cooling, and lighting systems automatically adjust for daylight levels and turn off when rooms are vacated.  Appliances and office equipment use much less energy for the tasks they perform.  Geothermal heat pumps eliminate the need for furnaces and boilers in many buildings.  The demand for energy conservation services has created a bustling industry with well-paying jobs. Compared to 1990, citywide energy use is down by 50%.

Cambridge also has dramatically reduced its reliance on centralized electricity systems.  Buildings do not just consume electricity; they also produce power.  Some have fuel cells that provide the energy reliability important to Internet businesses, biotech laboratories, and public safety operations.  Solar photovoltaic panels and roof tiles are common; any excess power they produce is sold into the regional electricity grid, allowing the building owners to run their meters backwards.

Solar thermal systems are installed to heat air and to produce hot water, reducing the need for fuel and electricity.  Where electricity from the regional grid is still needed, users have negotiated contracts with suppliers, often through group buying programs, to buy electricity from renewable sources.  Consumer demand is driving the installation of wind power turbines in the Berkshires and offshore, large-scale fuel cell facilities are running on hydrogen, and landfill gas is being recovered to generate electricity.  Where renewable energy supply is insufficient, natural gas fuels clean-burning combined cycle generators.

Rooftop gardens and green roofs are routinely installed on buildings of all types to reduce the need for air conditioners in the summer and to reduce storm water runoff to the Charles and Mystic rivers.  The city’s tree canopy has expanded as a result of aggressive planting and maintenance, reducing energy needs for adjacent buildings and increasing shading to offset the urban heat island effect.  There is enough quantity and variety of vegetation to support songbirds, and the shaded sidewalks and pleasant open space encourage people to enjoy the city in summer instead of fleeing the heat.

Fewer cars with single occupants are seen on the road.  The regional transit system has expanded in response to demand for more and better service.  Vehicles running on alternative fuels, hybrid technology, and fuel cells have replaced diesel buses.  Cyclists and pedestrians dominate the street instead of automobiles, since mixed use neighborhoods mean many destinations are within walking or biking distance.  With so many people on the street, crime is significantly lower; with so many fewer cars, the streets are safer for everyone.

Very little material is thrown away.  Products are increasingly made out of recycled materials.  Manufacturers and retailers take back old products for refurbishing or recycling.  The city provides a welcome home for diverse communities with its clean air, safe neighborhoods, and easy access to jobs, services, and recreation.  Children have a sense that they are partners with adults as community stewards, and the city is safe for them to explore.

As a result of all these changes, the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is abating and the threat of climate change is diminishing.  While past emissions have caused the climate to shift, changing precipitation patterns, average temperatures, and sea level, scientists have lowered their concern about the scale of the impacts.  This has happened because the previous generation recognized the problem and chose to modify their ways to protect future generations.

LASER provides a database of communities both throughout the workbook and as additional resources on its web site.[18]


Tools of Change:  Social Marketing to Engage Stakeholders

The following information comes from the Tools of Change web site.  Their planning guide is designed to help organizations plan, by providing space on the web site to insert their own plans and programs.  The planning Stages for any program to engage community members[19] process is broken down into the seven sections below.  More detail on each section is available on the web site.

  1. Setting Objectives

  2. Developing Partners

  3. Getting Informed

  4. Targeting the Audience

  5. Choosing Tools of Change

  6. Financing the Program

  7. Measuring Achievement

Setting Objectives
In this stage you will work to identify the objectives you aim to achieve.  This should be done through first evaluating the current situation, then setting the specific actions you want your stakeholders to undertake.  You must also determine measurable objectives and how you are going to measure the success of meeting those objectives.

Developing Partners
Determine what/if any organizations you would like to partner with to achieve your objectives.  Make sure to assess the pros and cons of partnering with each organization, what can you benefit from in particular from working with each organization.

Getting Informed
It is important to gather as much information around the subject prior to engaging your stakeholders.  This means doing literature reviews, speaking with area experts, contacting other cities with similar programs, and getting a sense of your communities existing opinions and behaviors.

Targeting the Audience
Determine what group of people you most want to reach through your program.  Who will have the greatest opportunity to change their behavior and reduce GHG emissions?  What group of people are already interested, but do not have the information to act?

Choosing Tools of Change
You must decide now how to best motivate action in your target audience.  What tools will engage individuals to make changes, continue the momentum of programs, spread the education, and remind individuals to act.  This will also involve creating an effective marketing mix with a variety of messages and language.

Important strategies to engage community members are:[20] 

  • Building Motivation Over Time

  • Feedback

  • Financial Incentives and Disincentives

  • Norm Appeals

  • Obtaining a Commitment

  • Overcoming Specific Barriers

  • Prompts

  • Vivid, Personalized Communication

  • Home Visits Mass Media

  • Neighborhood Coaches and Block Leaders

  • Peer Support Groups

  • School Programs that Involve the Family

  • Word-of-mouth

  • Work Programs that Influence the Home

Financing the Program
The best way to ensure a program will continue over time is to design it to pay for itself.  To achieve this goal it is important to:

  • Assess the value of and charge for the promotional opportunities you provide (coupons, demonstrations, referrals, advertising, public relations opportunities). What other promotional opportunities could you offer?

  • Assess the value of and charge for the products and services you provide. What other products and services would add value for your participants?

  • Choose low cost/low maintenance/high impact program activities . . . These programs are highlighted in the Best Bets Section of Chapter 5.

  • Obtain funding from partners who benefit from your program or who want to encourage what you are doing.

  • Tie program activities to ones already being carried out by your organization and its partners

  • City of Boulder is working with its utility, Xcel, to assess carbon fees (based on a successful 2006 Ballot Measure) on Boulder’s residents and businesses.[21] 

  • Establish partnerships with program delivery organizations, such as service clubs and community associations, who can offer volunteer labor on an ongoing basis.

Measuring Achievement
It is important for any program to decide what measures to monitor frequently or at major milestones.  For programs designed to educate, it might make sense to have a control group.  Measuring and reporting performance is discussed later in this manual, Chapter 7: Monitor and Verify Results.

Tools of Change provides numerous case studies about organizations and the specific programs and social marketing tools they used to be successful.[22]


Business for Social Responsibility:  Organizational Stakeholder Engagement[23]

Steps that businesses can use to engage their stakeholders are very similar to the measures city officials can use to involve the community in Climate Protection:

  • Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is a leading global resource for the business community and thought leaders around the world.  BSR equips its member companies with the expertise to design and implement successful, socially responsible business policies, practices and processes.

  • According to BSR, company approaches to developing stakeholder engagement are as many and varied as the types of engagement and the companies' motivations behind them, which range from crisis management to business strategy development.  Regardless of the type of engagement, these key issues should be considered:

Build the Business Case
This is the first and most important step before entering into stakeholder engagements.  Determine the specific goals being addressed and how the stakeholder relationship will help meet those goals.  Whatever the goal, it should be articulated as specifically as possible.  Among other things, this will help "sell" the benefits of the stakeholder relationship to and help stakeholders understand why the parties are entering into this relationship.

Examine Costs, Opportunities and Risks
Part of the business case should include a rough cost-benefit assessment of the actions proposed.  Costs can include the time, personnel, and resources that need to be committed to the relationship, the potential loss of market share or reputation that could result if things go poorly, and potential negative reaction among shareholders.  It also is important to consider the risks associated with not acting at all.  At the same time, take stock of the potential opportunities, including improved access to new markets, increased sales, greater public support (which could translate into tolerance of future mistakes or mishaps), improved morale, and enhanced satisfaction.

Do Your Homework
Identify potential stakeholder organizations with which to partner or engage, and conduct due diligence before contacting them.  Use leaders of stakeholder groups to identify other individuals or groups who should be involved.  Each stakeholder group has unique issues, interests, and willingness to engage in a partnership or dialogue.  Learn about organizations with which you share vision or values, and, when appropriate, be willing to engage even your toughest critics.  Find out each organization's motivations for partnering with you.  Check a potential partner's reputation, read its publications, scan its web site, and research media clips about the group.  Check references: Was the group open-minded, fair, and positive?  Did it keep its promises?

Understand Expectations
Important factors to consider before actual engagement are the expectations of stakeholders from engagement.  What are the respective drivers for stakeholder engagement and how will they influence the initial basis for understanding?  Are there issues of language, jargon or technical knowledge that will hinder communication and understanding?  Has it been a conflict situation where the different parties are sitting at the same table for the first time, or is it a multi-sector working partnership, where each party has different perspectives on successful outcomes.

Get to Know Each Other
"Walk a mile in each other's shoes," is the advice of one stakeholder engagement expert.  Whether using one-on-one meetings, group interviews, focus groups, workshops, seminars, public meetings, questionnaires, web-based discussion forums or stakeholder panels, work to understand each other's viewpoints.  Be as open and candid as possible in answering questions.  Be willing to ask and be asked candid questions.  Become as comfortable as possible with the specific individuals with whom you will be partnering.  Keep in mind that partnerships are formed among organizations but succeed because of individuals.

Clarify the Agenda
A partnership between stakeholder groups should have a specific agenda, timetable, and goals—ideally, created and agreed upon by all parties.  Determine what the deliverables will be, and who will deliver them.  Ensure that the goals are both aggressive and manageable.  Most experts say that such relationships should have a fixed duration so that projects don't drag on.  Even if a stakeholder relationship succeeds it may be good to disengage for a while to gain perspective on the relationship and the value—or lack thereof—it has brought.

Agree on the Ground Rules
Find ways both parties can benefit and further their objectives, and ensure that the risks and benefits to both sides are equitable.  There are a myriad of ground rules to consider.  How much of the project will be publicly disclosed -- and by which parties, when, and under whose control?  If there will be costs involved, who will bear them?  Be careful where money is involved.  Make sure it is well understood by all parties what, if anything, is expected for the money.

Get Top-Level Support
To give weight and credibility to the relationship, it should involve those high up in all the participating organizations appropriately from the onset of the relationship.  This lets a partnership operate easily within the rest of the organizations and displays each organization's commitment to other partners.  Lack of top-level support can greatly undermine a partnership's chances of success.

Speak with One Voice
Designate someone as the principal contact for the project or relationship.  As much as possible, flow communication with the stakeholder group(s) through that individual to avoid conflicting information and to ensure that you are communicating a consistent message.

Harness Proven Tools and Techniques
Although stakeholder engagement may appear to be outside the normal realm of daily management, it can benefit from the application of some of the business tools and resources existing within companies.  Examples include professional meeting facilitation, the use of indicators and goals to measure metrics and milestones, and information management systems to compile, track, and communicate information.


It is not enough for a government to listen to its stakeholders, or use the process to legitimize decisions without the possibility of change or influence.  Ask: "Are we doing this because we genuinely feel stakeholders have something to contribute or is it because we feel we should and think it will be good for our image?"  That is not to say that communities should (or could) meet all the demands of all their stakeholders.

Analyze and Report the Results
The value of stakeholder engagement will be enhanced if a community uses a variety of metrics and indicators and analyzes and reports on them during and after the relationship to determine whether and how the project met its goals.  Stakeholder-related indicators typically cover such things as the specific, measurable results of the relationship, third-party facilitation, and the direct and indirect costs of managing the process. Periodic reports of the progress of the relationship are valuable to all involved.  At the conclusion of the process, many communities issue a public report describing the relationship, including the process and the tangible results.

Understand the "Who, What, Where, When & How"

In summary consider the following:

  • Who is involved it the engagement? Engagement may focus on one or more groups. It may attempt to survey all individuals within a group or to identify a sample that is either representative or able to provide information of particular value.

  • What is the subject of engagement? Engagement may focus on a particular issue, or may be linked to a particular part of an organization's decision-making process. In some cases, there may be no clearly formed subject of engagement - the point is to allow the stakeholders to understand each other better and to allow important issues to arise unforced.

  • Where does the engagement take place? This may be driven by the use of a particular technique, for example the use of the Internet or postal questionnaire.

  • When is the engagement undertaken? The engagement may be a one-off process either to begin a process of debate or to close off a decision.

  • How does the organization engage with stakeholders - which methodologies and techniques does it use? A variety of techniques can be used to engage with stakeholders, including workshops, telephone hotlines, etc.


Additional Resources

  • Clean Air-Cool Planet – Community Toolkit
    Clean Air-Cool Planet, with assistance from Jeffrey H. Taylor and Associates, have created this Toolkit to assist communities in implementing sustainable policies and projects.  This web-based "how-to" guide for municipal staff and elected or appointed representatives provides:

    • Step-by-step project guides

    • Important contacts

    • Financing mechanisms

    • Cost implications

    • Model ordinances

    The Toolkit offers projects focused on energy, transportation, waste and land use.

  • Federal House in Order Initiative, Government of Canada:  Staff Awareness & Training

    Employee awareness is defined as the process of informing, training and involving your employees in any specific issue important to your organization, whether it be health and safety, waste reduction, or in the case of Federal House in Order, climate change.  Employee awareness activities in the area of climate change can include, but are not limited to:

    • Distributing climate change information to employees via emails, newsletters, websites or other communication mediums;

    • Conducting employee awareness and orientation workshops, which include climate change topics such as the science of climate change and actions to reduce GHG emissions and improve energy efficiency;

    • Establishing employee awareness teams and holding regular meetings to address climate change activities, while assessing new awareness and training opportunities within the organization, and

    • Including climate change as a topic at staff meetings.

    This section provides details on how to develop and implement an employee awareness program, information on existing awareness programs and employee awareness tools/resources.

  • Global Green USA – Local Government Green Building Initiative

    Global Green USA works in partnership with local governments and other public entities to demonstrate the benefits of green building, outline options for establishing green building programs that protect local quality of life and the environment, provide training for staff and constituents, and encourage the development of incentives for green building projects.  Current and past partners include San Mateo County and the Cities of San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Santa Clarita, and Irvine.

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Climate Change: State and Local Governments

    The website provides details on actions by states and efforts by local agencies to address climate change, along with links to relevant EPA voluntary programs that can help states and localities meet their goals.  It also provides a directory of tools that can help state and local governments inventory their greenhouse gas emissions, analyze greenhouse gas reduction opportunities and quantify the energy, environmental and economic benefits of lowering greenhouse gases.

  • The National Center for Atmospheric Research – “Climate Change and Water Resources: A Primer for Municipal Water Providers:  

    Water utility managers now have a primer to help them learn about how climate change may affect the resource they manage.  In the new book, Kathy Miller (ISSE) and David Yates (RAL) describe the science of climate change, suggest how it might affect water resources, and offer advice on planning and adaptation.  The book is one of the first to address climate change and urban water utilities together.  The focus is on usable information.  The book is accessible to people from the industry, and involves them directly in identifying vulnerabilities and options for adaptation.

  • Clearwater Information Exchange – Council Staff Education & Training

    The Clearwater InfoExchange Stormwater database provides information to assist councils and industry groups in Victoria Australia to manage stormwater more sustainably.  This site is designed to be interactive so that councils and other organizations can share their experiences and knowledge.

  • Natural Capitalism Solutions

    Natural Capitalism Solutions creates innovative, practical tools and implementation strategies to enable companies, communities and countries to reduce their carbon footprint.  It facilitates stakeholder engagement in such settings as NGO/ corporate disputes, community economic development and government climate mitigation programs. 

    NCS developed this Climate Protection Manual for Cities presenting case studies, best practices, cost/benefit analyses, legislation, technical descriptions and contacts to facilitate climate action planning and implementation.  It explains in detail ICLEI’s five-step process in creating Climate Action Plans.  Helps its clients implement energy efficiency auditing and retrofits, high performance municipal building codes, transportation programs, investment in green energy and many other climate protection strategies.

  • Orton Family Foundation database website is a resource for communities (their professional planners, public agencies, and concerned citizens) to identify tools and processes for better community design and decision making.

  • Thomas Jefferson Sustainability Council
    The council is using a multi-stakeholder process to preserve and assess the regional environment.  The three-year program is bringing builders, developers, environmentalists, social scientists, elected officials, teachers and many others together to explore the definition of sustainability, indicators of sustainability and the comparative risks of current and proposed development policies

  • San Francisco Sustainable City Website
    The website allows citizens to engage in the sustainability planning and education process through a forum on the site.  The "listserv" is for broadcasting announcements about events, workshops, forums, programs, publications, websites and other resources that are relevant to sustainability issues.






Click on the endnote number to return to text.

[1] Seattle U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement website,, 8 October 2006.

[2] Natural Capitalism Solutions called every city that had signed the MCPA as of November 2005.  At least 75% of officials surveyed were unaware that their city was officially a member.  Most of the rest were unsure what if any programs were being undertaken.

[3] ICLEI’s first responder handbook.

[7] Global Community Initiatives,, 15 October 2006.

[8] Natural Capitalism Solutions,, 15 October 2006.

[9] LASER Interactive Site,, 15 October 2006.

[11] Business for Social Responsibility,, 15 October 2006.

[12] Chapter One of LASER,, 30 October 2006.

[13] Additional Stakeholder Recruitment Tool from LASER,, 20 October 2006.

[14] LASER provides an example of the decision making process,, 20 October 2006.

[15] Portland BEST Awards,, 22 September 2006.

[16] City of Cambridge Climate Protection Plan,, 30 October 2006, also archived at,, 30 October 2006.

[21] The Climate Action Plan Tax (CAP-T), Measure 202 on Fall 2006 ballot, is a tax on electricity bills., 15 October 2006.

[22] Tools of Change Case Studies,, 15 October 2006.

[23] Business for Social Responsibility Stakeholder Engagement,, 15 October 2006.

Natural Capitalism Solutions © 2007