Meeting face-to-face with company representatives can be a good way of getting your concerns across. Meetings are a way to seek immediate clarification of an issue and can build more of a rapport with company executives than is possible through letters and emails.
This might mean that you have more influence, but there is a risk of being drawn into conversation about peripheral issues rather than the ones you want to talk about.
Any stakeholder can ask to meet with company representatives. In practice, while some companies will be happy to arrange meetings with faith groups, community groups or NGOs, others will try to avoid this. In such instances, shareholders – especially larger ones – will be more successful in securing a meeting than non-shareholders, so involving the former can be important.
As with letters, ask to meet with somebody senior enough within the company to make the contact worthwhile. If in doubt, ask to meet with the chief executive.
If you are successful in arranging a meeting, how can you ensure the meeting is useful? Your concerns are much more likely to be taken seriously if you are well prepared and knowledgeable about the issues you raise. You may find it helpful to formulate an “agenda” before you meet and let the company know in advance what issues you want to discuss. This enables the company to bring people with relevant knowledge to the meeting.
If you hope to follow up with further meetings or correspondence, try to remain polite and respectful without compromising your own position. It also helps to establish “ground rules” as to what you do with the information you get from the meeting. The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) often seeks to agree with the company a written summary of the meeting that ECCR can subsequently share with members and partners.
Of course, it is up to you what rules you agree to. However, where rules are agreed, it is important to keep to them so that the company will be more likely to trust you in future. This can mean access to more information than you would obtain otherwise.