We had the great pleasure of welcoming our first intern Tom Steel to the team this year. Tom made a terrific contribution to the Shared Value Project, assisting us with social media outreach, research, and events and programs. Read Tom’s reflections on shared value in Australia and insights he gained from his time interning with us.
I first came across shared value whilst working at IAG. From a small project examining risk in the community, the organisation has now built an entire team dedicated to shared value initiatives with much success.
Having witnessed some of these initiatives come to life, I’ve developed a keen interested in shared value thinking and recently completed an internship with the Shared Value Project in Australia – a regional community of practice committed to driving adoption and implementation of shared value strategies amongst leaders, companies, governments and civil society in Australia and the Asia-Pacific more broadly.
With my internship now at a close, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the state of shared value in Australia, some of the challenges I believe the movement may face and where I think business may be headed in the future.
Building a common understanding of shared value
By far the biggest challenge shared value faces, is developing a common understanding of what shared value actually means. Many Australian businesses do fantastic philanthropy, however shared value isn’t about giving money to the needy.
There is a lot of enthusiasm in the business community about the potential of shared value and out of that enthusiasm comes a plethora of discussion and ideas. However sometimes there can be a fine line in that discussion between shared value and philanthropy or corporate social responsibility.
For me, the key difference between a philanthropic business project and shared value is that there needs to be a measurable economic benefit for both the organisation and the communities in which it operates.
Which brings me to my second point.
Measuring the economic impact of shared value
Whilst we are seeing many organisations in Australia adopt shared value business practices, more can be done to improve the way we measure the impact of these practices.
A challenge of impact evaluation in shared value is that there is not going to be a one size fits all solution and not all the benefits of a shared value initiative may be tangible and easily identified. These projects are taking place in a diverse range of industries and take many different forms. However, for these projects to succeed and become an integral part of business strategy rather than a siloed thought bubble, there needs to be empirical evidence to prove the initiative is creating value for both the community and the business. It’s not enough to throw around fancy buzzwords about the success of a project and we’d be selling ourselves short if we did.
So looking ahead…
I see shared value as having enormous potential in building prosperity and driving innovation. Shared value also plays a large role in developing a social license to operate for many businesses. It’s been interesting reading the recent results in the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer report, which shows trust in business to be on an upward trend. As consumers become more informed and markets become more competitive, shared value will become critical for businesses to compete in the future.
Furthermore, I believe there’s going to be a growing need for business to take a more active role in community development. With the mining boom in Australia coming to an end, government budgets will inevitably shrink as revenue falls and government debt rises. This means governments will look for ways to improve efficiency and delivery of services through partnerships with community groups and the private sector, which is something we are already seeing with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In short, it’s an exciting time to be involved in shared value.
If you are interested in a shared value internship to help build your work experience in shared value, please contact Briar Lloyd via firstname.lastname@example.org