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Date: 2022-07-03 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00016754

Thought Leader
Mark Kramer

Shared Value is a corporate strategy, to fulfill it's systemic mandate sustainability needs more than business on side, argues Mark Kramer


Peter Burgess
Creating shared value Guardian sustainable business Shared Value: how corporations profit from solving social problems Shared Value is a corporate strategy, to fulfill it's systemic mandate sustainability needs more than business on side, argues Mark Kramer • Mark Kramer is responding to John Elkington's blog Mark Kramer for the Guardian Professional Network Fri 8 Jun 2012 08.09 EDT Shares 3 Comments 5 Coconut cake Creating Shared Value: solving social problems and increasing profitability by aligning its commercial and social interests. Photograph: Bon Appetit / Alamy/Alamy We were delighted that John Elkington attended our second annual Shared Value Summit, held last week in Cambridge Massachusetts, and I was pleased to read his blogpost highlighting some of the synergies between shared value and sustainability. It is high praise indeed for John to say that sustainability might be the ultimate form of Shared Value. John agrees with the central message of Shared Value about the power of business to solve social problems and increase profitability by aligning its commercial and social interests, but he raises several concerns. First, he claims that we do not acknowledge the values implicit within capitalism or its destructive force in the world, and second, that we overlook the much larger systemic issues that are at the root of the social problems that Shared Value would treat separately. He points out the risks of sweeping aside sustainability in favour of Shared Value. But our intent is not to sweep aside sustainability. Rather, we see Shared Value and sustainability as complementary and overlapping concepts that give rise to mutually reinforcing but different agendas for action. Sister concepts, perhaps, more than one as a subset of the other. There are aspects of sustainability that do not serve a company's economic interest which would not be Shared Value, and aspects of Shared Value which would not address a sustainability agenda. In particular, I found John's observation that Michael and I came to Shared Value by looking at the way corporations could profit from solving social problems as both insightful and accurate. We focus on the scale of impact and degree of innovation that companies can bring to society's needs that traditional NGOs and governments have often lacked. And so our framework is rooted in identifying the specific issues that a given company can and should tackle to improve its own performance and create large-scale social benefits. Our view is not inconsistent with the much broader and more systemic mandate of sustainability but Shared Value is rooted in a company-specific agenda. We agree that capitalism as practiced today does not adequately value the natural and human resources from which it derives profit. Michael Porter would argue that undervaluing these resources is inherently self-defeating as it undermines a company's own future profitability and therefore that such actions are capitalism misapplied and inefficiently managed. Sustainability's efforts to engage companies in reporting on and valuing the resources they consume and the harms they cause is therefore in the longterm interests of capitalism – a point Michael made nearly 20 years ago in a much debated Harvard Business Review article, entitled 'Green and Competitive: Ending the Stalemate.' The values that lead capitalism to wreak destruction, however, are not inherent in capitalism itself: the ground rules are shaped by governments and public opinion. Wise businesses with a long term view will embrace sustainability's mandate, but whether the global sustainability agenda ultimately prevails will depend on world governments as well as business. Shared Value, on the other hand, is fundamentally about corporate strategy and the decisions individual companies make in pursuit of profit. And Shared Value's unapologetic embrace of capitalism is one reason why it has resonated so strongly with corporate leaders who are less willing to embrace the sustainability agenda. Although less visionary, it is perhaps easier to put into practice – a limitation that has its virtues. Ultimately, it will take sound government and an informed, empowered citizenry to fulfill sustainability's mandate, but along the way, corporations that pursue a Shared Value strategy can create a huge positive impact – for themselves and for the world. Mark Kramer is founder and managing director at FSG and a senior fellow of the CSR Initiative, at Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Fri 8 Jun 2012 08.09 EDT (Accessed May 2019)
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