By Noah Grundy
“A piece of broken pottery is taken, and the broken shards are put back together again…, mended with gold and lacquer.”
Sarah James, emcee of the seventh annual Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific broadcast live from Melbourne on Thursday 17th July, compared 2021 to the Japanese art of Kintsugi.
“What’s amazing about Kintsugi is that it’s a piece of art more beautiful and stronger than the original…”
That was the idea behind this year’s theme—The Future We Choose—which, as Shared Value Project CEO Sarah Downie put it, signifies that “we actually have more agency than perhaps we realised… so let’s do something with it and design a better future.”
The Summit featured speakers from across the board, underscoring this year’s emphasis on collaboration, and that business has a key role to play to help solve social and environmental problems, but needs to rally the support of government, and of society more generally.
In the opening session, Shared Value Co-Creator Mark Kramer reflected on what has been achieved since 2011, when he and Michael Porter kickstarted the shared value movement with an article in the Harvard Business Review, titled Creating Shared Value; How to reinvent capitalism and unleash a wave of innovation and growth.
“The world is definitely moving towards shared value,” said Kramer. “For the first time ever,” the Edelman Trust Barometer places “business at the top of the list – more trusted than governments, more trusted than civil society.”
But the focus soon shifted to the future, with Kramer consulting some of Australia’s most inspiring young voices in A NextGen View: The New Mandate Business.
Natalie Kyriyacou OAM, Founder and CEO of My Green World, said shared value is less about “responding to trends” and more about “embedding a social and environmental framework in the business.”
For Yasmine Poole, The Martin Luther King Jr Center’s 2021 Youth Influencer of the Year, that framework must include an intersectional view of diversity, highlighting the “gendered implications of climate change”.
In Leading with Purpose: Adapting to a New World, Narelle Hooper moderated a panel of CEOs who considered leadership’s role in creating shared value, one key takeaway being the importance of democratic decision-making, as summarised by Nestlé Oceania CEO Sandra Martínez,
“We need to understand that many of our employees know the problems better than we do. How can we empower them to make decisions with conviction?”
Another key takeaway came from AIA Australia CEO Damien Mu, who reminded attendees that if “you’re only going to talk to the market about financial results – then that’s all they’re going to expect,” whilst calling on business leaders to create a broader narrative that outlines their organisational vision.
But change also starts from the outside—during a discussion amongst experts on The Economics of Impact: Is ESG the Answer?, AllianceBernstein CIO Daniel Roarty made a positive note of “the fact that the conversation [around ESG] has accelerated in recent years,” though admitted “investing sustainably is much harder than it sounds.”
For Mary Delahunty, Head of Impact at HESTA, it often requires turning “attention away from company behaviour and towards system-level enablers of that behaviour,” which can be “gruelling.”
In Building a More Circular Australia, PwC’s Chief Economist Jeremy Thorpe and Associate Director Dr Lucas Carmody presented research on the transition to a sustainable economy.
The change, said Carmody, is going to come from “industry” which will “drive the next wave of innovations to promote a circular economy.” Thorpe reinforced this opportunity but really impressed the need for government to provide appropriate “regulatory frameworks” to incentivise the transition.
The Shared Value Showcase brought the theory to life, with a diverse display of shared value in action, calling upon leading practitioners from diverse organisations, including CancerAid, No Lawyers, HSBC Hong Kong, and Wave XD. The session explored business models helping to create safe and inclusive spaces through improved lighting, and to support cancer patients through a digital health-management app, among others.
Shared value expert and session moderator, Hugh Foley, was heartened to see the growth of the concept in more surprising places, and amongst “small and medium-sized’ organisations.
In the final session, Summit participants were given the choice of two thematic tracks, exploring two key issues impacting society: loneliness and disaster preparedness.
In Mental Ill-Health: Tackling the Hidden Issue of Loneliness, Dr Michelle Lim, Scientific Chair at Ending Loneliness Together, discussed the evidence that solving loneliness is not only an ethical but an economic dilemma, which “costs the UK government $2.53 billion every year,” and though Australia-specific data is yet unavailable, “we know that loneliness initiatives have clear value for money.”
Whilst in the other thematic track, Disaster Preparedness: Valuing Resilience, Andrea Davis, Senior Director of Global Emergency Management at Walmart, recognised the power of providing crisis response training to employees, noting that “if our employees know what to do, that community knows what to do.”
At the Summit Close, Shared Value Project Chair Peter Yates AM returned to the metaphor of Kintsugi.
“When something is broken you can put it back together and the final project is more beautiful than the original one… I think that’s what we’re doing here.”
Shared Value Project CEO Sarah Downie stressed that to create meaningful impact we will need collaboration across sectors—”No one actor can solve it”—referring to the system-wide change required to create the Future We Choose.
The Shared Value Summit APAC was held on 17 June 2021 thanks to major sponsor AIA Australia and supporting sponsors IAG, NAB and PwC Australia.
Did you miss out on the 2021 Shared Value Summit? Not to worry – purchase an on-demand ticket now and gain access to the Summit’s full program of keynotes, panel discussions and lightbulb presentations for the next three months by visiting svsummitapac.org.