What does shared value mean to you?
There are many complex challenges in society, and we can no longer rely on Government to be the whole and only solution.
As a thriving society is good for business, it makes sense for business to play a key role in addressing social and environmental issues. Business is no stranger to complexity and often leads the way in innovative practices.
When you take this lens, put simply, share value is the future. Our world is facing many complex challenges and we need business models that are designed to solve them. Business should and can be part of the solution. For me, shared value is many things; it’s a mindset, a business mechanism and importantly a growing community of practitioners.
Shared value is an exciting opportunity to reimagine traditional business models, to innovate, to collaborate and dare to walk the more difficult path. We must accelerate sustainable business solutions and harness both technology and our people to address complex social problems.
What led you individually to the shared value concept? How did you come across it?
It wasn’t hard to see new trends – NFPs are looking for sustainable business models as an alternative to relying on Government grants and donations. We are also seeing the rise of the social enterprise.
To me it was taking these principles and thinking through how this could apply in larger corporate settings – and of course shared value does just this.
What does shared value success look like at [PwC] and where are you at on the journey?
PwC is a purpose-led firm ‘to build trust in society and solve important problems’. It’s at the heart of everything we do.
In 2018, PwC’s majority Indigenous owned, led and staffed consulting firm
PIC was Highly Commended in the Shared Value Awards. The broader PwC firm was tapped as the ‘Organisation to Watch’. We were honoured, humbled and conscious of our responsibility to live up to our promise.
The firm is investing in a number of shared value business opportunities including Innowell. The Innowell mental health platform matches individual needs to treatment, supporting people to get the right care at the right time. Cross-sector collaboration was central to its development, and Innowell was co-designed with mental health professionals, clinicians and service providers as a digital enabler for data-driven clinical decision-making.
PIC and Innowell are just a couple of examples of shared value within the firm – there are others in development. Shared value is increasingly a mindset our firm is adopting – it’s slightly different yet related to our work in social impact. Let me explain.
Our response to the nation’s devastating bushfires provides an interesting example.
PwC donated $500,000 to the Australian Red Cross, who is also our partner in the work we are doing around homelessness. The firm is also matching individual donations from our partners and our people which brings the total contribution to over $1 million to date. We have also uncapped staff volunteering hours for those working with emergency service and offered pro bono resources to four state governments, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and Red Cross.
But beyond our immediate response I expect the recovery effort will open some shared value opportunities. Already agencies have said the recovery effort must draw on all the available evidence and knowledge, including working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. If we consider this with a shared value mindset it’s likely we’ll develop solutions that will empower local and remote Indigenous communities.
There may also be shared value opportunities in bushfire mitigation and adaptation work. This could include data-driven insights and modelling solutions or education and upskilling programs that enable our emergency services to better equip communities and also themselves in the face of ferocious bushfire conditions. These are only some initial ideas but what is important is that shared value thinking is applied early on. That way, we stand a better chance of delivering sustainable solutions.
What is your role individually within [PwC] to support the company along its shared value journey?
I started my career and spent the majority of it in theassurance practice. As an auditor you very quickly focus on the importance of integrity and trust within systems in a sustainable way.
With this background, and in my role as Social Impact leader for PwC Australia, there is a growing need to stay on top of employee and community expectations of business. We are seeing this after the banking Royal Commission and the ongoing impacts of climate change. NGOs are also looking towards sustainable funding mechanisms.
When you start thinking through the complex social issues we continue to face – if one party could solve it, chances are, it would have been solved ages ago – it’s clear that collaboration is needed. PwC is proving that through collaboration business can play a role in solving prevalent social issues like homelessness through our investment in The Constellation Project.
This quickly brings us to shared value – finding business opportunities in solving complex social problems, profitably – a desirable new normal.
How has practising shared value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?
For me it’s been about developing a logical and visible pathway towards shared value within our firm. We gave a lot of thought to how we encourage our firm to adopt a shared value mindset.
Tthis began with refining our social impact strategy and breaking it down into three components that build on each other and ultimately ladder up to our firm’s purpose and social value.
The first thing we did was to recognise that responsible business practices like carbon neutrality and embedding ambitious diversity and inclusion policies were simply that, responsible business. It’s now considered a basic requirement for businesses to keep their house in order, recycle responsibly like most of us do at home etc. You won’t be in business for much longer if you are not thinking this way.
Our ambitions for shared value are supported by our commitment to social impact and more broadly our firm’s purpose.
As can be seen from our bushfire response and our pro bono contributions to The Constellation Project, it means managing a portfolio of responses to societal challenges. It means thinking broadly about how we can sustain the work that is needed, where resources are limited.
Working from a base of responsible business our strategy is to reimagine the role of business in society to impact complex social challenges. This can be achieved via ambitious cross-sector collaborations that are not-for-profit, like The Constellation Project. And also shared value propositions like PwC’s Indigenous consulting firm PIC and Innowell.
None of this is easy or straight forward, and I’m learning from others in the broader shared value community and taking a particular interest in how we develop the shared value toolkit in 2020. There is much work to do!
What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating shared value?
We are already making excellent progress in the general health sector but also with mental health. I see opportunities everywhere; from education in remote Indigenous communities to upskilling individuals who are facing rapid disruption in their workplace and communities, creating liveable cities free from pollution, innovative circular economy solutions, energy transformation and many more. It’s about framing the problem with a shared value approach from the outset and then holistically and diligently creating business models that are sustainable.