24 June 2015

Shared Value: a step towards doing well by doing good

By Thomas Wylob, Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) 
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School
After nearly two decades of globalization, privatization and free trade, the global economy has been left with mixed results. An economy still feeling the aftershocks of a global financial crisis, recession, poverty, increasing inequality, climate change and loss in biodiversity, has exemplified the interdependency of business and society, and the need to avoid returning to ‘business as usual’.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum, proclaimed in the New York Times, “What we are currently experiencing with the financial crisis and its consequences is the birth of a new era - a wake-up call to overhaul our institutions, our systems and, above all, our thinking”.

In response to this political, social and corporate upheaval in systems thinking, corporations have shifted towards a more inclusive conceptualisation of value creation. Whereby sustainability has become the new source of competitive advantage, and the phrase ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’, historically perceived as beyond the scope of business, is now being investigated as a potential avenue forward for businesses moving into the 21st Century.

This shift towards a more sustainable mindset has been in part initiated by new programs and courses at top educational institutions. As the leaders of today challenge traditional perceptions of good business practice, they are helping to equip the business leaders of tomorrow with new skill sets to make a difference in the world.

The often quoted Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, which has heavily resonated with me, and I believe it can be quite representative of the outlook for many millennials.

Top graduates are beginning to look beyond just work-life balance, comparing and selecting companies based on the positive impact they are having on the world. The mission of companies, likewise, is increasingly becoming of great importance in attracting the top graduates from around the world, as the desire to make a difference and leave a legacy has become a key driver in directing the decisions of young millennials.

Even at the bachelor level, a greater emphasis is being placed on being a force of good. Increased research and resources have been directed at uncovering new and sustainable forms of value creation. Currently being researched in my honours thesis, shared value is one new concept that integrates this new way of thinking.
Adopted by big multinational corporations such as Nestlé, GE, IBM and Unilever, shared value looks to adopt the capitalist model in addressing and solving social needs and challenges.

What we look to contribute to is creating a theoretical baseline to this concept. By providing a more comprehensive and succinct definition, academic and businesses alike will be able to more effectively isolate it’s applicability to their organisations, eventually progressing research in the future to include the question – How can it be implemented? And how can shared value add value to my business? These are the key questions industry leaders and business managers seek to understand.

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