In this month’s member interview series we feature Nina Collinson, Community Engagement Manager at The GPT Group, about her experience with shared value and the role she plays within the organisation in investing in shared value developments and supporting the organisation along its shared value journey.
What does shared value mean to you?
Shared value is about understanding that the long-term financial success of a company depends on the health and prosperity of the communities that it operates in. It is about organisations approaching their desire to ‘do the right thing’ for the community in a sustainable way that creates value for the business at the same time.
It is about thinking more strategically about where organisations choose to invest in the community and being specific about the types of desired outcomes and impacts.
Adopting an approach that seeks to generate business and social value results in organisations making longer-term commitments to activities that benefit the community. It results in these activities being a value driver for the business rather than a cost centre.
It is about transcending personal passions and empathies with certain causes (which can happen when investment in the community is purely philanthropic), and focusing on community issues that are most relevant to a particular organisation, leading to better outcomes all around.
What lead you individually to the shared value idea? How did you come across it?
The Porter and Kramer article in the Harvard Business Review was certainly my first formal introduction to the concept but I have always had questions about the adoption of a purely philanthropic approach to community engagement. With my background as a qualified accountant, and having the perspective of the investor in mind, I have always thought that organisations need to adopt more sustainable approaches to community investment. Ones that encourage longer-term investment in community issues and challenges.
I was fortunate to work for one of the pioneers of shared value thinking in Australia, being IAG, who were prepared (even in the very early days) to explore the approach and what it meant for the business and community. I now work for another committed organisation that understands the value creation opportunities that are generated by such an approach.
How is shared value playing a role within The GPT Group and where are you at on the journey?
Creating both business and social value is at the core of our approach to community engagement. While we recognise there will always be a role for philanthropy and more traditional CSR initiatives, we want to focus our attention on how we can address business challenges and create social value at the same time. We want to take a sustainable approach to creating value in the community and to do this, like any other investment decision made across the business, we must also look at the business benefits of the activity.
Thinking about our business and social contribution in this way is nothing new to GPT. A great example of this is our development team. For many years they have considered in a very structured manner the impacts a development can have on a broad range of stakeholders. The development team assess how a particular development can be designed and structured in such a way as to create value for all of the stakeholders as well as GPT.
But, by no means do we have all the answers. We continue to explore exactly what shared value means not just for our engagement with the community, but how the thinking can extend across our entire value chain. Social value generation should be important in everything that we do. It should be the differentiating factor between a business case with pure business benefits and one that can be modified to generate equivalent business AND social value.
What is your role individually within The GPT Group to support the organisation along its shared value journey?
My role is one of champion, thought leader and facilitator. My role is about engaging our people to ensure that the shared value approach is vertically integrated throughout the organisation. I want our people to be able to articulate what it means for GPT and encourage them to think about how it applies to what they do on a day to day basis. This will ensure we think about both business and social outcomes across our entire value chain – whether it relates to strategy, customer experience, innovation or our supply chain. I listen, challenge and provide suggestions about how we can generate a social impact in addition to the expected business value in any activity or transaction.
How has practicing shared value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?
It has helped me have more of an impact in my role as a community engagement manager. The shared value approach provides a straight-forward and effective way of presenting social investment opportunities to the business. In much the same way any other part of the business need to articulate the benefits and ROI of an investment decision, so does the shared value approach.
The shared value approach has helped me focus not just on the cost of our community-related activities, but also on the outcomes and impacts. If we are not generating a social return or creating value in the community, then our investments need to be redirected to ensure that they have the impact we want them to have. It forces us to really think about what the desired impact of any investment really is.
Measurement is central to community-related investment decisions. Both the social and business impact must be measured if we are to sustain effective investment.
What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating shared value?
I would be hesitant to pick out any one specific challenge as I think there are so many critical issues out there that corporate Australia, through the adoption of a shared value approach, can help to address. Every business will have social and community challenges that impact them that don’t affect other businesses. Therefore, if every business identified community issues that related to them, we could get widespread action in addressing a multitude of social issues through the shared value approach.