Resequencing the Corporate Genome: How Leaders Embed Shared Value into Organizational DNA
As a culture, we are distracted and obsessed with short-term thinking, easy answers, and swift results. The context in which we live encourages this mindset and protects itself from alternate approaches. Yet maintaining the population and its resource needs over the long-term without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to do the same—the very definition of sustainability—is simply not possible on this path.
While it has been traditionally acceptable to recognize profit as the fuel that powers the global economic engine, chasing profit at the expense of all else is obsolete and perilous. Fortunately, a series of bold moves in the private sector toward broader social goals are just beginning to move the needle. Responding to a growing chorus of consumer demands and reacting to entrenched government dysfunction, powerful business leaders have jumpstarted a trend that looks like it’s here to stay. Their message is simple: if your business is not committing to sustainable outcomes and social progress, you will be left behind.
Among the more telling examples of business’ evolving role in society comes from Lawrence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of BlackRock, an investment firm that manages over $6 trillion in assets. In early 2018, Fink declared the firm would no longer invest in businesses that shirk their responsibility toward social progress. In a letter to business leaders, he wrote, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Shared value—profit-making strategies that provide tangible value to both the community and the bottom line—is not created in isolation, but rather through purposeful partnerships where each stakeholder provides complementary value.
When Cisco Systems discovered “refugees ask for Wi-Fi before food, shelter, healthcare, or asylum,” the IT company partnered with the nonprofit NetHope and together they leveraged their core capabilities to equip over 80 refugee camps in Europe with internet access. In its quest to reach 100 percent recycled, organic, or renewable material in its products by 2020, global outdoor lifestyle brand, Timberland, partnered with a social enterprise, Thread, to convert used plastic bottles into polyester fabrics. Chinese tech firm Huawei is cultivating talent by working with academia to invite students from over 100 countries to spend two weeks with its employees in Beijing and Shenzhen. Global energy firm Enel has embedded shared value creation in all of its global business operations, focusing on providing energy solutions to underserved populations, while investing heavily in renewables.
In this issue of the Global Engagement Forum: Magazine, we highlight the ways in which companies are incorporating shared value into their cultural DNA. Strategies such as scaling solutions through diverse participation, using data and analytics to understand business’ impact on social progress, encouraging employees to discover a deeper sense of purpose in their jobs, and expanding storytelling to amplify experiences and innovation are among the ways companies are resequencing the corporate genome. Read on to learn how pioneering leaders are applying these strategies in pursuit of a sustainable tomorrow.