Before joining Shared Value Initiative Hong Kong, I had spent most of my career in the luxury industry. Glamour and beauty are the perks – but for me, there was always something missing. I was spending my time, energy, and whatever talent I had promoting beautiful but hardly necessary and, let’s face it, somewhat superfluous products. When the urge to act on this missing piece finally became imperative, I thought I would have to drop my luxury career and start from scratch in ‘sustainability’.
By Gaëlle Loiseau, CEO of Shared Value Initiative Hong Kong
But first, I took a course on business sustainability, which opened my eyes… Rather than abandoning a skillset to go “do sustainability”, it would be much more efficient to bring sustainability into whatever it is we do, because we’re good at it. Marketers, lawyers, accountants, bankers, all professionals have valuable experience. Add sustainability to that expertise and you have the recipe to change the world.
Creating Shared Value as the roadmap
But where was the roadmap for business to participate in the efforts toward a more sustainable world? These issues have traditionally been the responsibility of government and civil society. My penny dropped when I discovered Creating Shared Value: there was the toolbox for businesses to ‘do sustainability’ (addressing societal challenges) doing what they are good at (solving problems profitably).
I like the ‘can do’ attitude of CSV. Instead of asking businesses to ‘donate’, or ‘give back’, Shared Value focuses on the positive force of the private sector to drive change. Ask what a company’s core ability is and use that expertise to advance society. How to better future-proof an organisation than by designing profitable business models that also legitimize the company by solving some of their community’s deepest challenges?
At Shared Value Initiative Hong Kong, we aim to help companies channel their drive to make good business into creating positive social or environmental impact. This has positive ripple effect on the organisation’s stakeholders. By challenging business-as-usual, businesses create competitive advantage, employee engagement, customer loyalty and investor trust, all the while building legitimacy in the community.
In the luxury industry, new business models inspired by the circular economy are emerging: if luxury goods are durable, why not resell them over and over again (e.g. second-hand luxury platform ‘The RealReal’) ? If they reflect fashion, why not rent them out to satisfy the customer’s need for change (e.g. luxury subscription platform ‘Rent the Runway’) ? If they are about high craftsmanship, why not repair them creatively and make them unique (e.g. the repair trend)? All these solutions save resources while creating differentiation and providing a valuable service to customers.
Inventing new ways of making profits is in no way easy, but the examples of innovative business models leading the way in creating shared value are compelling.