THE CHANGING ROLE OF BUSINESS AND BUSINESS LEADERS
Listening to leaders and young people share their business drive, passion, vision, successes and challenges at the 2019 Africa Shared Value Summit in Nairobi, Kenya brought home for me personally once again that Africa is a continent that does not have to stand back for any other. What we as Africans have created and achieved, with far less resources than our first world counterparts and after decades of the suppression of colonialism, is not only remarkable but also commendable. However, we still have a long, long way to go and many, many more obstacles to overcome – but, if we work as a collective, there is no doubt in my mind that we can do it.
In the last eight weeks, from May to June, we saw business leaders from across the world gather in Boston, USA, Nairobi, Kenya and Sydney, Australia to discuss, amongst many examples of Shared Value work done, the changing role of business and business leaders.
8-10 May 2019, Boston, USA – Theme: Delivering on the Promise of Purpose
The global Shard Value Initiative hosted the 2019 Leadership Summit in Boston in May,2019. Since the 2011 Harvard Business Review article on ‘Creating Shared Value’, there have been growing calls for business to shift beyond profit only and to address the needs of all stakeholders, not only shareholders. In his keynote address, Prof. Michael Porter made the statement that true purpose is Shared Value – more than a carefully-created purpose statement, companies need a strategy and culture that is built around purpose. As business, we need to make our purpose more powerful. Prof. Porter stated that company purpose falls short in four areas:
1. They are not significant, meaning that the purpose does not make a meaningful
contribution to an unmet societal need, such as the United Nations Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) or a critical local social problem.
2. They lack authenticity, meaning that they do not reflect the company’s core values, are not
visible in the culture, and do not guide the company when it needs to make difficult
3. They are not profitable, meaning that they do not drive measurable value for the
company’s bottom line, therein creating an incentive to continuously reinvest in trying to
achieve the company’s purpose.
4. Companies are not serious about implementing their purpose, meaning that the company
does not hold all leaders and managers accountable for their contributions to the company
Prof. Porter went on to reconfirm after many years that the purpose of business is to create economic value in a way that also create value for society, and that is the core idea of Shared Value. Purpose creates the synergy between what our business is doing and what society needs. Business purpose is Shared Value.
22-24 May 2019, Nairobi, Kenya – Theme: Africa’s Business Growth – Grounded in Collaboration
Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom – the headline sponsor and a Founding Member of the Shared Value Africa Initiative, said in his address to the 330-plus attendees on day one, “Through the Summit, we hope to widen the Shared Value audience and bring together a broader African stakeholder group into the conversation. The reality is that governments alone cannot address the challenges that we face the African continent. The Summit will offer the private sector an opportunity to see how their business solutions, products, and services can solve societal challenges while generating profit.”
The energy at the 2019 Africa Shared Value Summit, where 18 countries were represented, was almost tangible. There seems to be a real willingness and a realisation that we need to stop talking and start taking action to create not only prosperous businesses but also prosperous societies and communities. Bob Collymore raised such a valid question that many of us have been wanting to ask: “Should our nations pursue GDP driven economic growth or growth that aim to bridge the inequalities in our society?” His answer: “Now more than ever there is a clear call to action to business that the business of business is no longer business.”
During his address, Mark Kramer, co-founder of the Shared Value Initiative, emphasised once again that Shared Value is not about CSR, CSI or philanthropy – it is about “how we create value for society by simultaneously creating value for business”. Doing something different from others, finding a different market to serve, a different need to meet, is the essence of sustainable competitive advantage.
One of the highlights for me was listening to Nzoika Waita, Chief of Staff to the President of Kenya, whose message of political willingness to accelerate change was like a breath of fresh air on a continent where the intentions of politicians are often questioned.
17-20 June 2019, Sydney, Australia – Theme: Business on Purpose
This year marked the fifth birthday of the Shared Value Project in Australia and, as in Boston, the Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific explored the theme of Business on Purpose. The Asia Pacific region has a more established Shared Value community, and the summit hosted a range of practitioners that seem to represent a more mature Shared Value market. On Monday 17 June, I attended the Introduction to Shared Value Workshop, which provided clear direction on how Shared Value works in practise demonstrated through with some local and international case studies.
Prof. Micheal Porter was the keynote speaker via video link and he again confirmed the importance of purpose in an organisation and how purpose-driven organisations perform better overall.
One of the highlights of the summit was listening to Daniel Epstein, CEO and Founder of Unreasonable Group, who assist entrepreneurs to scale their impact. Daniel spoke about the innovations created by our young entrepreneurs and it was especially special as he spoke about so many young entrepreneurs from Africa that his organisation funded and assisted. The Shared Value Lab Sessions were very popular. They were divided into two areas that provided much-needed information for Shared Value practitioners. The topics included:
- Communicating Shared Value
a. Acts Not Ads: doing good and building trust in a suspicious world
b. Communication as Impact
- Advancing Shared Value.
a. Embedding Shared Value Within Organisations
b. Future-Proofing Your Business Strategy
One thing is clear: the global Shared Value community is growing, as is support for the Shared Value business management concept. I want to take this opportunity to invite everyone to get in touch with the SVAI, to build partnerships with us that will create a better, more inclusive and sustainable world for us all.
Onwards and upwards!