You saw this one coming too, didn’t you. Authoritative Damnation 63 was the Board of Directors, your best friend on a rare day and your worst enemy most of the time. But the Board is not some random group of people, they are a specific group of people that are elected by, you guessed it, Shareholders.
Shareholders are a damnation because they, collectively, control the company. Yes the company answers to the CEO and yes the CEO answers to the Board but the Board answers to the shareholders because if they don’t do what the majority of shareholders feel is in the best interest of the company, the Board won’t be around after the next annual general meeting.
Most shareholders are minority shareholders and most are not very active when it comes to day to day affairs, most not even following day to day affairs because, if the company doesn’t perform, they’ll just withdraw their small investment and put it elsewhere or wait for the overall portfolio to balance out. But some are active, very active, to the point of being activist and if they also have a percentage of the company, and the ear of other shareholders that have a percentage of the company (and not a fraction of a percent), they can be trouble. Big trouble. So much trouble that Big Trouble in Little China* looks like a minor inconvenience.
Why? If they decide that your organization is off track, possibly because they perceive that the organization is failing to be as sustainable or responsible as it should be, and they decide they are going to do something about it, they might go all out and bring the wrath of PETA or Greenpeace down upon you.
Or, if a small group of activist shareholders believe that the strategy of only using recycled content and only focussing on buying from EcoCertified suppliers is costing the company too much in terms of increased expenses and decreased marketshare (as it is, in their view, only attractive to yuppies), they might decide to force an AGM and replace the entire Board with those sympathetic to their ear, a Board that will do a 180 on company strategy, which might work, and might not. But either way, Procurement will have to do a 180 as well — find new suppliers, try to get out of iron-clad contracts with current suppliers, and support a new strategy — overnight.
Or, they might elect themselves to the Board and become the latest Board Members from Hell. Are you ready? Probably not … but they are coming for you anyway!