What does shared value mean to you?
For me, shared value means shaping a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future. It’s about expanding the total pool of economic and social value, beyond redistributing what already exists.
Increasingly, this means being fit for the future. Millennials globally are looking for more sustainable and impactful choices and we increasingly understand the need to address systemic risks like climate change, wealth inequality and food security.
On the ground, shared value means better outcomes and new business. For example, low-cost high nutrient yoghurt sold in the millions of units by Grameen Danone, improving children’s physical and cognitive development and creating jobs and other value through the supply chain; 580 million children vaccinated and millions of future deaths averted because US $5.7bn raised immunisation bonds that mean the children don’t have to wait.
What led you individually to the shared value concept? How did you come across it?
I left my legal partnership in 2002 and started scanning the world for the best ideas about building stronger partnerships and strategy across sectors.
I found that the exciting, pioneering work was agnostic about sectors and all about creating social and economic impact. I read everything I could get my hands on – Michael Porter’s work on what evolved into shared value, Jed Emerson’s work on the Blended Value map, Simon Zadek’s work on next-generation corporate responsibility, Jane Nelson and Ira Jackson’s work on creating Value with Values.
I was hooked; it opened a window for a vision for how we could create real change, manage risk quite differently and contribute and scale solutions.
What does shared value success look like at Impact Strategist and where are you at on the journey?
Wearing my Global Steering Group for Impact Investment – or GSG – Trustee hat, we have a clear and aspirational vision – to shape society for the future where more activity and capital flows to solutions delivering impact at scale and meeting the aspirational targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Impact investment is, by definition, a shared value proposition, designed for societal and economic benefit; it’s how we resource shared value.
There has been growth in leadership and drive. The GSG 23 member countries, each with national advisory boards driving development of their market; another 10 or so countries have these boards at various stages of development. A Harvard study found these unique institutions demonstrate the power of cross-sector collaboration.
There has been growth in capital. 2018 figures identify US$502 billion in assets under management focused on impact and over US$28 trillion now in some form of sustainable or responsible investment.
This progress has been great to see. It’s not linear geometry. Now is the time to capitalise on where momentum has developed to take things to scale. In particular, we need to focus on scaling solutions and understanding the impact being achieved.
Advising SDG Impact at the UN Development Programme, I see the urgency that the 2030 target for meeting the universal UN Sustainable Development Goals is not that far away. People there are also positive about the contribution the private sector has to make and are focused on accelerating and facilitating that. They’re developing meaningful market intelligence and practice standards to provide clarity, insights, and tools that support and authenticate the corporate and investor contribution to achieving the SDGs.
In my corporate and finance sectors roles, I see more interest in how to embed the social and environmental effects of their choices and drive more effort and resources effectively toward impact. There is still lots of scope to make it easier to participate and grow capability to translate shared value interest into action.
What is your role individually within Impact Strategist to support the company along its shared value journey?
As a GSG Trustee my role is helping to catalyse and scale impact ecosystems around the world. I led a cross-national group to develop a theory of change for what it will take to widen participation and deepen practice to promote and accelerate activities that create less harm, benefit stakeholders and contribute solutions.
Until July, I led Australia’s (national) Advisory Board on Impact Investing (AAB) as Executive Chair, working with terrific leaders who’ve come together in the AAB and in its operating company, Impact Investing Australia, to drive impact investment in and from Australia.
As companies and investment funds around the world are bringing impact expertise and governance into their organisations, onto boards and investment committees and forming advisory boards, these roles are growing as part of my Impact Strategist portfolio. It is a great way to put shared value on the strategic agenda.
How has practicing shared value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?
It literally changed my life. After all that reading and exploration in 2002, I founded a business to drive strategies for what we’d now call shared value and the rest, as they say, is history.
Shared value was a tough sell in Australia then; even that reality opened up opportunities– to work in and with community and join government to lead national productivity reform and set national strategy in social innovation – to demonstrate what’s possible.
My work as Social Innovation Strategist ultimately opened the invitation from then UK Prime Minister David Cameron to join the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce in 2013. This led to founding the Australian Advisory Board on Impact Investing and Impact Investing Australia to drive our contributions to the global effort. That turned out to be a huge plus because it opened up powerful ways to engage leaders in developing the ecosystem for impact and in the policy dialogue.
Once you see things through the prism of shared value, you can’t unsee it – it opens new horizons.
What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating shared value?
I am bullish on shared value expanding the toolkit for models that respond to the deficit of trust in institutions and the crisis in sustainability. You ask about solving issues; I see opportunities – sectors like health, education, sustainable agriculture and energy are high growth markets and ripe for innovation in numerous dimensions.
A game-changer is Impact Capital Australia, designed as a cross-sector partnership to prove up new models for impact and prime the pump for the intermediary market to generate more opportunities. Once the $300m in capital is secured it will provide critical market infrastructure through two key roles that reflect its shared value mandate: investor and market champion.
We recently highlighted 3 specific issues with concrete potential in the AAB blueprint, Scaling Impact: transforming delivery and investing in better outcomes for people with disabilities, enlivening Australian communities through investment in place, and investing in the future of Asia and the Pacific.