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The next era of shared value begins

June 25, 2019

The SVP’s fifth Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific was truly a pivotal moment for the shared value community.

With such immense growth behind us, we can now have confidence that the region is ready to make its next move in redefining what Business on Purpose could – and perhaps should – mean in future.

In his key note, co-creator of shared value, Professor Michael Porter, went so far as to tell the audience: “You are right at the epicentre of shared value today. There is no place where we have the energy and motivation to move [shared value] forward like you do here. This community is one of the most powerful groups of people in the world.”

From long-term partners to new faces, this sense of community in the shared value movement has never been more important; particularly as we explore solutions to some of the biggest problems we have faced in modern times. Whilst our challenges have never been greater, neither has our appetite and ability to enact global change.

For those unable to attend our 2019 Summit, we have summarised the key themes by sharing some of the most insightful quotes we heard during the week. We hope they will inspire you to join us as we reimagine a better future for business and society through the next evolution of shared value.

“Business and community organisations are so far ahead of Government in so many areas. What you see with shared value is business really taking the lead to redefine the social contract. If it’s done well, it’s a win-win. And if big businesses don’t do it, there’s a huge gap [in social potential]” – Federal MP for Parramatta, Ms Julie Owens

Speaking to SVP, Ms Owens observed how the shared value community was cementing a new standard of Business on Purpose which could inspire the public sector.

“When it comes to shared value, impatience is a virtue” – Unreasonable Group CEO, Daniel Epstein

In a world of unprecedented division and uncertainty, Daniel believes we have five to 10 years to change things. As part of a panel discussion during the Advancing Shared Value Lab, he underlined the urgency around cross-sectoral collaboration to advance social, environmental and economic progress.

“The conversation around investment used to focus on risk, rather than opportunity; or shared value. My advice to asset managers now is not to wait until you’re asked about shared value, but to take responsibility for bringing it into the conversation. No CEO would wait to talk about the PNL” – Novartis Head of Social Innovation & Strategy, Michael Fuerst

The Investing on Purpose breakfast prompted vigorous conversation around the evolving relationship between investors and the investor relations sector. Asset managers can no longer ignore the social and environmental impact of business, and investors can now have a stake – and a supportive hand – in using business for good.

Commenting on leading with purpose: “It’s having the confidence to solve a problem, and the humility to ask for help” – Daniel Epstein

This was the consensus of the Leading on Purpose panel, which suggested that courage and collective expertise were crucial to unlocking social impact. PwC Australia CEO Luke Sayers AM added: “It’s hard to deliver on good leadership in a fulsome way if you’re not brave. As a leader, you have to stand for something; something that is meaningful, purposeful and right.”

“The purpose of purpose is to allow people to achieve fulfillment within their organisation . . . we’re all like snowflakes, with own unique set of skills” – BD Executive VP Global Health, Gary Cohen

Gary reminded the audience not to forget their people when considering the role of purpose in business. He highlighted that delivering on a single goal can take a multitude of different talents.

“If we’re not careful, ‘purpose’ can be just another distraction or window dressing that makes us feel like we’re doing something, when we’re not. What makes corporate purpose powerful is to connect it to shared value” – Co-creator of shared value, Professor Michael Porter

Speakers and panellists explored the relationship between purpose and shared value; with most concluding that shared value offers a means to deliver on corporate purpose – among other initiatives, such as philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. Professor Porter proposed that shared value is what makes purpose meaningful; and should form part of every company’s purpose statement.

“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to get beyond the confusion of words – what purpose is, or what shared value is – and consider what business needs to do” – Professor Michael Porter

Despite the above, Professor Porter suggested that to dwell on semantics is to miss the point. We must remain focussed on driving social and economic progress, rather than becoming preoccupied by the language we use to describe it, he said. However, effective communications emerged as a common theme throughout the Summit, dividing attendees on whether shared terminology would be helpful in embedding this important business strategy internally and externally within society, or whether it should be tailored to different organisations and audiences.

“The opportunity to work with entrepreneurs is that they’re working where the future is going to be . . . that’s because they see profit as a tool. They don’t want to be profit-makers, they want to solve a problem” – Daniel Epstein

Daniel, who works with socially-minded entrepreneurs, emphasised their growing part in addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues. He outlined the mutually beneficial relationship that they can have with large corporations, offering more innovation and efficiency around solving social problems, whilst leveraging private sector resources.

“Measurement is a big issue, and the [purpose] industry needs to be much more professional in how we do this. It’s not about having a glossy purpose statement or how purpose is framed on a company’s website. It’s whether they are genuinely solving societal issues” – Michael Fuerst

Measurement was a common thread throughout the conference – as panellists discussed the challenge in tracking social returns alongside financial returns. Michael impressed that providing a visible correlation between the two is vital to investors, staff and customers. Daniel Epstein added: “What you are seen to measure as a company is an indicator of what you value.”

“If the entire market adopted shared value, we could lift the world out of poverty” – Phil Harkness, CEO and Managing Partner of Mutual Trust

Phil told the audience that shared value was the “biggest single thought [he has] ever been exposed to”. In a nod to the concept’s joint commercial and social outcomes, he asserted that shared value was “a whole new weapon for success”.

“We have to get over the guilt we feel in talking about profit related to social impact. For many, profit is still a dirty word” – Professor Michael Porter

Professor Porter acknowledged a continued discomfort around companies increasing their bottom line by addressing societal issues. He pointed out that the business sector is the only institution with the capacity and expertise to meet social needs at scale, while creating income wealth and prosperity. He termed this the “magic of capitalism”.