Fresh off the plane, and despite the red-eye, I still feel the energy of the Shared Value Summit in Sydney. There in the room, was a group of professionals from all sectors convinced that there is a smarter way of doing business. A way to solve the huge challenges we face as a society with profitable disruptive business models creating competitive advantage.
Written by Gaëlle Loiseau
3 Human traits: courage, humility & empathy
While new technologies such as AI or machine learning are presented as the solutions to transition to a safer world, speakers at the summit agreed that it actually takes three very Human qualities to do so.
Leadership – be it in business, government or civil society – is the ability to show courage, and indeed it requires boldness and confidence to address the issues of our world.
However – and maybe counter intuitively – leaders also need the humility to recognise that no one has all the answers and that collaboration is key to reach significant impact.
Lastly, to understand the root of the issues we are trying to solve, we need to listen to users, and understand the underlying needs by creating authentic relationships. That’s the empathy piece that creates successful initiatives (think human-centered design).
Entrepreneurs + Global Companies = Shared Value
So why is shared value focusing on the private sector? Because we have a problem (or 17 problems according to the SDG framework)… and businesses are excellent at solving problems profitably, and therefore sustainably.
Daniel Epstein from The Unreasonable Group believes entrepreneurs have a fresh perspective on the world and an agility that enables them to innovate. But the situation is dire and we need to reach critical mass urgently. Who better than multi-national corporations can scale up these business models for meaningful impact?
Shared Value embraces corporations’ special talent at identifying business opportunities and reorients the power of the private sector to address societal issues.
If Purpose is the ‘Why?’, then Shared Value is the ‘How?’
All speakers at the summit recognized that we lacked alignment on the language around creating shared value. The consensus was that CSV is part of a wider toolkit including philanthropy, CSR or the ESG framework, and that organisations can use shared value as the roadmap to achieve their purpose.
Nevertheless, whether or not it is labelled as CSV, the practice is gaining traction with leaders providing overwhelming evidence that the returns are worthwhile, not only in terms of profits but also resilience, cost savings, talent retention, customer loyalty, reputation building, and more broadly the long-term sustainability of the business.
Indeed, the need for the private sector to rebuild trust with the community was repeatedly identified during the summit as central to any future-proofing strategy. The call to action for organisations is to look at our predicament through the business opportunity lens, rather than the prism of responsibility or risk mitigation.