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So what is Creating Shared Value really all about?

So what is Creating Shared Value really all about?

We’ve talked and heard lots about brand social responsibility – let’s take it a step further. 

Recently the concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV) as formulated by Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School, has been picked up by several companies such as Nestlé and Kirin.

CSV now represents the next horizon for leading companies to aim for.

We’ve moved on from philanthropy being a distinctive element within very few businesses to many companies broadly adopting the corporate social responsibility mantra.

Creating Shared Value involves, and should be at the centre of, all aspects of a business. This includes everyone from suppliers to employees and shareholders, as well as customers and consumers.

This sounds quite compelling and intuitive. However there are three questions we brands need to ask to really grasp what is at stake:

  1. Can you really change your tone?
    The risk we see is that CSV = CSR 2.0. Companies may modify their tone to talk more about Shared Value than Social Responsibility but still focus primarily on the investor community with their messages e.g. “invest in my company because we are doing the right things to succeed in the future”
  2. Can shared value become a living organism within your brand?
    Consumers buy brands. What is still lacking, or underestimated, is that consumers reach out on the shelf and buy brands, not corporations. Hellmann’s and not Unilever for example.Just as Social Responsibility needs to be a living organism within all brands so do Shared Values. It’s likely that consumers are even more open to trusting brands than corporations as they may be perceived to be more innocent.
  3. Do you need a corporate purpose too?
    Just to complicate things further, another piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be forgotten is Purpose. It’s companies and business, more than brands, that need to have a purpose which goes beyond making profits. So, should brands just focus more on shared values than purposes?

You may also be interested in reading How to show consumers you take your responsibilities seriously, Why CSR is no longer enough and Why BSR is often seen as an act of compliance rather than a real driver for top line growth.