The Shared Value Question We Need to Ask
The house lights dimmed, signaling the start of the program. As we hastily took our seats, the day’s moderator, Maria Cattaui, former Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, took up the lectern for the start of the Nestle-IDB summit in Cartagena, Colombia. After welcoming the audience, Cattaui’s revealed that the day would start with an unannounced visit from the most prominent speaker the Latin American country could provide – the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. A murmur of enthusiastic surprise flowed lightly through the crowd, and with perfect theatric timing, the double doors at the back of the room opened to reveal the president in the spotlight.
As President Santos strode to the stage shaking hands and smiling in the way of experienced politicians, the scene was set for powerful insights from the country’s leader. His core message was clear: Opening Colombia to outside investment had paved the way for decades of economic growth. And, in his view, the pathway for ending the scourge of extreme poverty in his country was through the concept of shared value.
He didn’t stop there, but continued to explain his vision of how shared value would unfold: How the government would set a productive atmosphere for private sector investment in transforming social conditions. How nonprofits would play a crucial role in partnership with the private sector and the government in delivering social changes. How both Colombian-owned and multi-national corporations, like Nestlé, would be needed to invest in ending extreme poverty. How the leadership and investment of the IDB and other bi-lateral and multi-lateral investors would play a critical development role. (You can watch the full summit video here.)
It was a solid reminder that the what and the why of shared value only gets us so far. Santos struck a dramatic note by declaring that shared value would be a driver to end extreme poverty in Colombia (the what); but the president’s argument became more grounded and impactful when it took on the more challenging (but more interesting) effort of explaining how. For it’s in the how questions that participants really start to translate the idea of shared value into their own work, partnerships, and influence efforts within their organizations.
As the Shared Value Initiative moves towards the fourth Shared Value Leadership Summit, our agenda, as it always has been, is fully focused on the how. We’ve been building the knowledge and capabilities of shared value practitioners globally, and know from first-hand experience that the how is where the real insights happen. It’s where innovative partnerships emerge and where the ability for 300+ participants to meaningfully connect with each other irrespective of organization-type or industry becomes a reality.
This year, we’ve expanded our lineup of influential CEO and senior leaders who will be focused on the following how topics:
We hope you’ll join us and help focus the conversation for our audience of global shared value practitioners – not on what shared value is and why companies should consider it, but how we can implement shared value together. Learn more and register for the Shared Value Leadership Summit: Investing in Prosperity, May 13-14 in New York.