2017 Trend: Shared Value Acceleration

By Jocelyne Daw

Shared Value is defined as addressing social needs with a business model to achieve social and economic value. It was first identified as a business practice in 2011, after implementation at companies like Nestle, Unilever, GE and Discovery over the previous five + years. This year, Shared Value enters its second decade and will increasingly accelerate, as it becomes a competitive advantage for business. As practitioners and members of the Shared Value Initiative we are pleased to share our top five practices for shared value acceleration.

1.Design shared value as a strategy not CSR

Shared Value is the interface at which business goals meet societal needs. It exists in its truest form as a core company strategy— not on the periphery as is often the case with CSR. Shared Value strategy focuses on optimizing value through reimagining products and services; refining productivity in the value chain; and strengthening the competitive context in which a company operates. The ultimate goal is profits + purpose where positive net value for the company and the community will sustain our economy and society over time.

TELUS launched a pilot program in late 2016, TELUS Internet for Good that offers low-cost Internet service to 18,000 low-income single-parent families across British Columbia.  The program will also be available to similar families in Alberta in early 2017. This innovative pilot program is funded entirely by TELUS and comes at no cost to the government or to taxpayers.

The program provides access to low cost Internet service for $9.95 a month. The goal is to empower these families to reach their full potential in an increasingly digital society – including applying for a job, accessing online learning, connecting with distant loved ones, to virtually experiencing vibrant art and music.

TELUS is committed to the promise of a friendlier future in a digital world and is investing in infrastructure to support and extend the reach of advanced wireless and wireline telecommunications.

2. Start with an aligned social purpose that drives “profits”

At its heart, shared value is built through a deep understanding of a business’ strengths, assets and challenges and aligning them with a social need. It begins with asking questions: “What is the social challenge your company can uniquely help to address? Why is this issue important to the business? What are the leverage points for social change? How can business value be applied?”

While adding social value is what makes Shared Value a unique element of business strategy, it also must deliver a feasible business proposition. In other words, profits matter. Profits can be defined as revenue, growth, and competitive advantage, innovation, saved revenue/resources, productivity and brand equity that arise from investment in social value creation.

Green Shield Canada Health Insurance MYCHANGE4LIFE: The program targets plan members that are pre-disposed to health problems and encourages them to make positive changes in their own lives. This includes such behaviour changes as eating better or getting more sleep. The tool provides reliable information about many of the most common health issues all in one location and offers trackers to help people develop goals in their personal health journeys. There are points and rewards offered for good behaviours. Stronger connections with clients and reduced insurance costs for plan members are the two most valuable business benefits.

3. Drive shared value through innovation and intrapreneurship

Shared value ideas are generated through as an innovation challenge and require intrapreneurs to bring them to life. Intrapreneurs are people working within large companies that spend their time innovating, improving business and thinking like entrepreneurs. They are infectiously creative, passionate about their work and have a strong internal desire to bring corporations along with them.

Barclay’s has developed a social innovation lab that provides intrapreneurs at the financial services firm with resources and space to experiment, innovative and apply shared value concepts within the business. To learn more: http://bit.ly/1Kx07Jd

4. Embrace partnerships as core

For business to address social issues requires the expertise, experience and knowledge of the community and government sectors. At its heart, shared value requires cross-sector collaboration to be effective and deliver value for society as well as the business. To unleash shared value organizations must integrate partnership into their strategy and business culture and inspire co-creativity that unleashes shared value for all.

Suncor and the Energy Futures Lab Partnership: The Energy Futures Lab (EFL) is an Alberta-based, multi-interest collaboration designed to accelerate the development of a “fit for the future” energy system that would benefit the energy industry and Canada. Launched by Suncor Energy in partnership with The Natural Step, the EFL brings together a cohort of influential leaders, organizations and experts to address current and emerging energy challenges, and generate opportunities to identify, test and scale new initiatives and collaborations.


5. Learn by doing

While frameworks are important and strategies critical, exploring ideas and opportunities is what makes Shared Value come to life. There is a challenge between intent and action that realizes that “just trying” is what is needed. Shared value breakthroughs are not sitting on a shelf waiting to be executed. They need to be explored, discovered and fostered. Learning by doing requires courage and boldness but is really the only way forward.  Remember, Shared Value initiatives are a long game and true success won’t be overnight.

Shared value is a journey, one that is advancing and growing. At JS Daw & Associates we believe that corporate success and social contributions are interdependent. If companies can use the same passion, energy and culture of innovation that has made them successful and apply that to social challenges, they can make profound and positive social impact in the world. We are optimistic about the evolution-taking place as more companies’ embrace the concept of creating shared value and build a competitive advantage in the process.