No successful company makes its business decisions in isolation of those that stand to be impacted from its actions. Stakeholder perceptions help us to determine material issues and inform our business strategy. Our engagement with stakeholders on sustainability issues has largely been dictated by the strategic direction of the business. While issues key to business operations receive high-level attention, we are increasingly incorporating triple-bottom-line elements into all our business strategies.
Moving forward into a new era as a public company, we recognise the importance of including the concerns of our stakeholders in the Group’s business dealings. We interact with our people, customers, government, the regulator, business partners and communities at various levels and intensities during the normal course of business. But the Company’s very size and strength often shields us from hearing and being able to respond to important issues affecting these relationships.
Realising this, we held independently facilitated discussions with key stakeholders in 2008. These raised some areas of concern regarding the future of Vodacom, our trading culture and stakeholder relationships. The Chief Officer: Corporate Affairs, with direct responsibility for external relations, was appointed in February 2009. Thereafter, we began to formalise and improve our engagement with stakeholders by formalising a list of material issues which forms the framework of this report, as well as of the Company’s sustainability management systems, currently being developed (see Material Issues table).
Our executive committee is actively engaging on these issues and working on how to incorporate them into business strategy.
The results of the stakeholder engagement opinion survey on EMF issues, undertaken by Nunwood Consulting in 2008, were released during the year under review. These are discussed under the section on ‘EMF compliance’.
We engage with our various stakeholder groups throughout the year, in some cases in a formal and structured manner, and in other cases on an ad hoc basis. Some of these interactions are described below, while others are addressed in context with relevant issues, where they are discussed in this report.
In South Africa, customer satisfaction is monitored on a monthly basis, through the ‘Customer Delight’ questionnaire which looks at various customer touch points such as network, products and services, tariffs, billing, contact centres, and information provision issues. Year-to-date, Vodacom SA scores 4.4 points higher than its nearest competitor for overall ‘delight’.
We also track and measure brand perception. in South Africa we achieve this through ‘brand health’ tracking on a quarterly basis, to determine what people associate with the various brands, as well as to check on the general success of the brand. Currently the market leader for the category, Vodacom SA also conducts market research and ad hoc studies with customers and suppliers based on business requirements.
The Group continuously engages with the media on a proactive and reactive basis via media launches, press conferences, interviews, press releases, financial results announcements and media queries. A media centre is available on our website (www.vodacom.com) where all announcements to the media are posted, and where media can request to be added to our distribution list. In addition to our website, we communicate with our employees and customers through a variety of media such as newsletters and magazines.
Vodacom is consistently working towards meaningful and constructive stakeholder engagement that will inform our understanding of the most important business and sustainability issues impacting on us in relation to society. By adjusting our approach and policies where necessary, and deriving indicators of our performance, we will be able to effectively measure our progress in the future.