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‘Leave the room and talk about it’

30 October 2019 at 1:15 pm
Maggie Coggan
Businesses urged to spread the word about the profit with purpose movement 

Maggie Coggan | 30 October 2019 at 1:15 pm


‘Leave the room and talk about it’
30 October 2019 at 1:15 pm

Businesses urged to spread the word about the profit with purpose movement 

Corporate and social business leaders must actively champion the shared value movement if it is to grow, finance leaders say.     

During her closing speech at the 2019 Shared Value Awards in Melbourne, Helen Steel, CEO of the Shared Value Project (SVP), urged everyone in the room to go out and spread the word. 

“This is the time, we’ve got to grasp it. I want everyone here to go out there and talk about how they can incorporate shared value in their business,” Steel said. 

This year’s awards mark five years since the launch of SVP, which is the peak body for shared value – a business strategy designed to solve social issues profitably.  

Steel told Pro Bono News there had been a definite shift in attitude from companies around mixing profit with purpose.  

“It’s been a challenge to get our members to talk about solving social issues profitably before,” Steel said.  

“But they are now owning the fact that they do make money, but that they can make their money in a different way, and are thinking more broadly about that social element to how they operate and conduct themselves as organisations.” 

Steel said compared with other years, she was taken aback by the depth of understanding businesses had of the concept.    

“[In] the work that SVP do as educators, raising the awareness and building the capacity internally with organisations, I think after five years we’re seeing a shift and a change and companies really authentically and intentionally going down this path,” she said. 

But she said with more talk happening within corporate circles on how to combine profit and purpose, SVP also needed to “seize the moment”.    

“There’s a good groundswell of companies that get it but I feel like we are still scratching the surface a little bit and there’s so much more work in that education space to do,” she said. 

One of Australia’s biggest life insurers, AIA, picked up the biggest award of the night – winning the corporate organisation leading through shared value award for its Vitality Program.    

Jeremy Houghton, AIA’s head of corporate affairs, told Pro Bono News that championing the movement was vital to quell any misconceptions around mixing profit with purpose.

“Tackling social problems has always been seen as a zero sum game or as something separate to business but if you think about tackling a social problem as a market opportunity, then you start to change how you look at that,” Houghton said. 

Steel added that there was an opportunity for the B Lab audit to become a way of measuring shared value. 

“We know that B Lab is now involved in Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and other large businesses, including with some of our members,” she said. 

“So it could almost be part of that measurement piece.” 

She said she hoped impact investing would also be a part of the conversation. 

“There could be real power in involving all of these concepts to strengthen all of our discussions in a collaborative way,” she said.

Other major award winners on the night included G For Good, winner of the small/medium organisation leading through shared value award, and Intrepid, winner of the shared value organisation to watch award.    

Ann Sherry AO, Carnival Australia chair, was also named as the shared value champion, and Peter McNamara, CEO of Good Shepherd Microfinance, was named as a shared value trailblazer.  

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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