Creating Shared Value: Rising in the East
If there was ever any truth in the notion that shared value is an idea cooked up in the US and Europe—that it principally applies to companies with their head offices in those geographies—or that Asian companies have yet to embrace the concept, it was dealt a blow at this week’s CSR Asia Summit in Hong Kong. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on a panel on shared value (or commonly called "CSV" in Asia) there on Tuesday alongside the Shared Value Initiative’s Chad Bolick, USAID’s Regional Partnerships Builder Marianne Smallwood, Samsung’s VP of Corporate Citizenship Jinuk Shin, and CJ Corporation’s EVP of Global shared value Heekyung Jo Min. (The latter’s job title should give some clue as to how well embedded the concept is in that particular organization.)
Judging from the packed seminar room, the lively workshop held immediately afterwards and the keenly observed questions throughout, there is no shortage of interest in the topic shared value in the region. Just as impressive as the businesses from many geographies, sectors and sizes eager to start their shared value journey or take it to the next level was the number of not-for-profits in the room. If some may have started the morning with a certain sense of trepidation that shared value might spell a move away from more traditional business-NGO partnership concepts, by the end of the workshop it seemed there was a greater degree of comfort.
This may be because the businesses in the room freely admitted that though they may have a nascent business solution to a pressing societal need, the knowhow of how to get that solution most effectively distributed and applied to the target population, element of natural capital or geography may be better understood within an appropriately oriented and skilled civil society partner. All of which means that there may be more, rather than fewer opportunities to work together; and that those opportunities could be more results oriented, focused and therefore durable.
Two other things jumped out of the discussion for me: first, that we all rrecognizedthat Creating Shared Value may not be the only answer, or applicable in every conceivable situation; and in fact most organisations will of necessity adopt a portfolio approach to their societal engagement. Second, that measurement is going to be key to success, including robust baseline metrics that are so necessary to help build understanding of the progress made.
What else had we found out by the end of the morning? I’d like to hope that while some of us have been on the shared value journey longer than others, there was also a collective energy and creative curiosity to find those sweet spots where social need collides with business opportunity and measurable outcomes accrue on both sides of the equation.
And something else: Those who came to Hong Kong expecting shared value to be a sideshow in this region were in for a surprise. Just ask the Korean companies on our panel. But more than that, from the energy in evidence this week, there’s every indication that creating shared value is rising all over the East.
John Bee is communications manager at Nestlé, the world’s leading nutrition health and wellness company, at the forefront of operationalizing Creating Shared Value. Nestlé is a funding partner of the Shared Value Initiative.