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Five years, five lessons: Reflecting on the Growth of Shared Value in the Asia Pacific

June 13, 2019

Earlier this month, we released our inaugural Shared Value Project Impact Report 2014-2019, demonstrating the growth of shared value in the region over the past five years.  

With a membership base ranging from companies in financial services to technology, health and travel; a reach of more than 1.7 million through public events and media; and a reported 12% average increase in gross profit during membership, our preliminary analysis tells a promising story. 

This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the well-evidenced benefits that shared value brings to business. Beyond those related to marketing, customer preference, and the bottom line; is that most importantly, by addressing the social problems that intersect with our business challenges, operations become more sustainable and resilient.

It is this very point that has become the key business driver for shared value, since the formation of the Shared Value Project (SVP) in 2014. Today, society faces significant problems which pose increasing social and environmental risks to companies’ lifespans. And in recent years, we’ve realised that we cannot expect governments, NGOs and charities to combat these issues alone. 

As a result, a growing community of forward-thinking business leaders has emerged in recognition of the competitive advantage that comes with strengthening the world in which we operate. Effectively, we are seeing the potential for shared value to future-proof society and our economy simultaneously, and I couldn’t be more proud to see this thinking take hold in Australia and the Asia Pacific community more broadly#. 

As we consider the next evolution of shared value – with the 2019 Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific set for next week – this 2014-2019 Impact Report encourages us to reflect on how far we’ve come and the lessons we have learned on the way.

1. Understand how shared value complements CSR and corporate philanthropy

We recognise that shared value isn’t the single strategy to solve all social issues; CSR and corporate philanthropy still have a role to play in creating social change. The difference with shared value, which places societal problems at the heart of your business strategy – is the potential for solving solutions at scale and long-term profitability. Shared value creates a value chain where a company is not only reducing harm, but ensuring profitability by actively doing good. 

2. Don’t confuse your passion with your purpose 

Concentrate your efforts on the social and/or environmental problems that are most relevant to your business; rather than trying to address them all. This not only makes your commitment to the cause more meaningful to your partners, shareholders, staff and consumers, it will also help you to ensure a larger impact to your bottom line. 

3. Genuine change is enacted top-down, in and around 

The shared value approach must be a directive from above to pick up steam and proliferate throughout an organisation. It can’t, however, rest solely on the shoulders of the c-suite. It needs to be embedded and governed among all partners, staff and suppliers, to unlock the company’s full collective power to create transformative change. By committing to being more than a ‘business’d at every level, we can achieve greater impact, sustainability and scale. 

4. Choose and re-choose your partners wisely

Whether you’re partnering with governments, NGOs or other businesses, your strategic linkages should provide a gateway to new networks and access to new market insights, knowledge and expertise. Seek partners with a shared philosophy or purpose. This may require evaluation of existing partnerships and open up the opportunity for new relationships to emerge. Find partners with whom you can effectively tackle the issues and that contribute to both purpose and profitability of your organisation. As the world’s needs evolve, we need to be prepared to pivot, finding new solutions with the relevant experts in tow. 

5. Take a measured approach 

In an era of ‘fake news’ and greenwashing, the topic of trust is at an all-time high. Research indicates that today the majority of people have little trust in governments, churches, or charities; and for the business sector, they’ve become increasingly aware of the difference between good business and good marketing. Corporations can take significant strides in addressing this growing trust deficit by effectively measuring and reporting on the outcomes of their purpose-led initiatives and thereby creating shared value.

To read more about the advancement of shared value in the Asia Pacific over the past five years, you can download the full report here.