In this month’s member interview series we feature Ben Peacock, Founder of Republic of Everyone. Ben shares his experience with shared value and the role he plays at Republic of Everyone, working with companies to co-create shared value projects that engage the business as a whole – and go beyond its walls by starting to bring the concept of Collective Impact into the equation.
What does shared value mean to you?
In the simplest terms, it means making ‘doing good’ good for business. I believe almost everyone wants to create a better world in their own way, but often they feel that they need to leave that part of themselves at the door when they walk into work. Shared value is the answer to that dichotomy.
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What lead you individually to the shared value idea? How did you come across it?
We first noticed the concept of shared value when the article was published in 2011. In many ways it defined exactly what we had been seeking to do with businesses in a neat, packaged way. Of course, back then, not everyone in business was listening. Like all movements, it’s takes the right things to fall into place to make it a mainstream concept.
The Shared Value Project most certainly galvanised the concept in Australia as a CEO level issue and having leading companies such as IAG and NAB champion the cause sends a very strong signal to the market that this is no flash in the pan.
How is shared value playing a role in Republic of Everyone’s work and where are you at on the journey?
Republic of Everyone was founded a decade ago on a wing and a prayer that someone, somewhere in business would want to consider social and environmental issues as important to everyone in the world – business included. At the time almost no-one had heard the word sustainability and the concept of shared value didn’t exist – at least not as a discipline.
It has always been our mission to make sustainability and CSR more than a risk issue for companies by showing them how, when they get their strategy right, they can increase employee engagement, investor interest, brand value and innovation within their organisation.
In that sense, I believe we have been doing shared value for a decade – just not under the name. What the shared value movement has done is bring new impetus to the conversation and really clearly define simple pathways companies can take, which has been unbelievably helpful to us. It has also caused the true leaders to identify themselves and the world needs that too.
In terms of where we are at, our current focus is work with companies to co-create shared value projects that engage the business as a whole – and go beyond its walls by starting to bring the concept of Collective Impact into the equation too.
As a consultant, what are common challenges or themes you see in organisations taking on shared value?
By far the biggest challenge is for sustainability, CSR and shared value teams to break out of their team’s walls. For shared value to work it needs to be an all of organisation (or at least significant part) program, involving marketing, innovation and other teams. They have the know-how and the budgets to take a nice idea and turbocharge it.
But getting time and interest out of these people is hard. Everyone’s busy and a new concept takes time to take hold.
How has practicing shared value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?
Shared value has given us a simple framework with which to engage everyone from CEOs to brand managers on the brave new world of business strategy and how CSR can intersect with marketing.
When you have an idea that creates a nexus between an organisation’s business, brand and sustainability strategies, that’s a powerful idea.
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What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating shared value?
Absolutely, indigenous issues are one space that I think holds a lot of potential. As are environmental issues – when positioned as social issues around health, heat and amenity.
In many ways it would be easier to list what shared value can’t solve than what it can.