Business is a major part of society and is inevitably going to play a major role in shaping our political landscape.
After all, politics for the people cannot work without politics for business. Just as politicians rely on companies to innovate and create employment, so companies rely on politicians for attractive economic conditions and favourable regulations.
Such regulations are absolutely central to the running of any business. That's why, in the ever changing social and economic landscape, companies are actively involved in shaping their environment to ensure a competitive edge.
This is lobbying.
When most people think of lobbying, they think of big business, corporate greed, shady deals behind closed door. Rarely do they consider the benefits or indeed the necessity of lobbying.
It can provide valuable research and analysis. It can represent large and small interests, and it can engage public involvement – all public benefits, none of which are paid for by the public purse.
Broadly speaking, politics and business have a different focus and sometimes the two do not understand one another. In business, profit maximisation and cost efficiency are standard. In politics, power and governance are the central concepts.
But while companies need favourable political environments, politicians in return rely heavily on the expertise of industry leaders to help shape policy. After all, isn’t it more beneficial to the country that those who practice have some input to how it is preached?
A measure of the importance of lobbying in business is the extent to which the political framework affects a company’s business activities.
As lobbying aims to achieve competitive advantages (or preventing competitive disadvantages) it must take its place as party of an overall business strategy.
In highly regulated sectors such as energy, logistics or transport, knowledge of the relevant political dealings is essential. These companies must know the exact How, When and Why of decision making.
Effective lobbying correctly identifies the key decision makers, keeps the company informed, develops an effective political risk management strategy and ensures – yes – a competitive advantage.
Most of these are self-explanatory but the key benefit of a political risk management strategy is to ensure a business can quickly and efficiently meet the changing challenges and demands of its customers and the legislature.
Professional, structured and targeted lobbying can make an integrative and essential contribution to your business. It can create, structure and support ways to overcome system boundaries through mutually comprehensible communication between your company and those who are responsible for regulating it.
Ultimately, businesses have requirements and demands and for the necessary informed decisions to be made in the national interest, these must be communicated.
You can find more information about the new rules and guidelines on the Register of Lobbying website.
Aideen Ginnell is a Senior Client Executive with Cullen Communications, specialising in Public Affairs