The 10s (2010 – 2019) was the decade where social and environmental impact strategy made its way onto the white boards of corporate Australia. Prior to 2010, corporates that played an active and meaningful role in progressing social change were reserved to companies on the fringe of corporate Australia with a few exceptions.
However, the decade that came and went, saw social investment and innovation thrust into the limelight. Greater appreciation of the value of the interconnection between NGOs, Governments, community and the corporate sectors to tackle some of society’s most pressing concerns has occupied the mainstream media. There are a number of factors to cause this shift, but none more influential than the presence of millennials in the workforce. As of 2020, millennials (born after 1981) make up approximately 50% of the global workforce. In a recent Australian study, 65% of millennials said that a sense of purpose was the most important quality to look for in an employer. That is, can they identify with the purpose for an organisation’s being in the world. Many millennials have seen how capitalism has caused many of the social and environmental issues that exist and so are committed to seeing it play a role in making amends.
As a result terminology such as triple bottom line and ESG has come into vogue within the walls of corporate Australia. Whilst some corporates have resisted change, viewing social and environmental impact as just that, a fashion statement that will come and go; a growing number of progressive large global brands have capitalised and have invested. Those investments are paying off big time.
Two such examples include Bosch and Starbucks. Bosch the global technology and services supplier has in recent years shifted half of its RnD budget to developing environmental protection technology. As of 2021 the company has invested $77 million aud. to support universities and research programs that are focused on the environment, energy and mobility. Starbucks has pledged to significantly diversify its workforce. By 2025, they will have hired 25,000 veterans. They have also joined the UN Refugee Agency to help support their effort to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022.
Whilst the social impact strategies adopted by companies vary as do the type and size of companies adopting them; one common thread between them all is the pursuit of making positive social and environmental impact more profitable. As more and more large and small companies adopt and perfect their approach, a growing number of companies are proving that DOING GOOD PAYS.
Creating Shared Value is one such business strategy designed to solve social issues profitably. The original concept was developed by Professor Michael Porter and Professor Mark Kramer out of Harvard Business School (read more at HBR link) following the Global Financial Crisis when the reputation of capitalism was at rock bottom. Shared Value aims to leverage the resources and innovation in the private sector to solve societies biggest challenges.
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down to interview Sarah Downie for Apricot Consulting’s podcast series Inside Healthy Teams. Sarah is the CEO of the Shared Value Project Australia & New Zealand. The Shared Value Project is the peak body encouraging and enabling organisations to use their innovation, resources and expertise to create commercial solutions to social problems.
Sarah shared with me that for companies to play a meaningful role in societies biggest challenges, it requires companies to look at their current business model through a lens of innovation. What this means is that Shared Value is not CSR, it’s a strategy designed to make sustainable social impact profitable. Companies that imbed Shared Value stand to gain greatly, as the strategy is designed provide a multitude of benefits the results in greater profitability. These opportunities can include stronger brand equity, accessing new markets, product innovation and development, internal staff engagement and retention as well as many others positive side effects of a well-developed Shared Value strategy.
The world is on the brink of major social and environmental change and the next decade will determine in what sort of state it will be left to future generations. Corporate Australia has a hugely important role to play and the good news is that for companies that do so stand to benefit greatly.
If you would like more information about developing a profitable social impact strategy, visit https://www.apricotconsulting.com.au/shared-value-programs … or you can contact me directly James.email@example.com .
For more information about the Shared Value Project visit https://sharedvalue.org.au/.
Finally stay tuned for my interview with Sarah Downie by following Inside Healthy Teams by Apricot Consulting (https://www.apricotconsulting.com.au/podcast-1).
James McHugh – Head of Corporate Social Impact at Apricot Consulting
James McHugh is a qualified social worker and is currently completing a Master of Social Impact at Swinburne University. He leads the corporate social impact department of Apricot Consulting which seeks to help organisations with their corporate social impact programs, social and environmental impact strategies and not for profit and social enterprise engagement and relationship management.