Laura Palantone is an associate consultant in APCO’s New York office.
Members of APCO’s Sustainable Growth + Corporate Responsibility team joined the more than 400 attendees at the first day of the Shared Value Leadership Summit, a two-day annual event hosted by the Shared Value Initiative*. In its fourth year, the summit brings together leaders from corporations, NGOs and multi-lateral organizations under the program title, “Investing in Prosperity.”
From today’s panels and conversations with other attendees, we recognized five common themes that can be helpful as we think about developing and promoting shared value or corporate social responsibility programs.
- Set aspirational targets for your programs. As Zia Khan of the Rockefeller Foundation said, “We must make specific goals and not just have good strategy.” By developing audacious goals, companies and organizations can accelerate internal collaboration and external partnerships as they often feel more aligned and determined to achieve an established target. These goals can also be incorporated into communications to better articulate the intended outcomes of a program or overarching strategy.
- Focus on outcomes and not activities. Building off of the previous theme, speakers and attendees discussed the importance of measuring their impact from the number of jobs or increase in income created, to the changes in the confidence and happiness of employees and internal audiences who helped drive the programs forward. Being able to benchmark and quantify success is critical to building internal support for, and continuing to invest in, any program.
- Internal buy-in is crucial to success. On that note, especially within large organizations, it is critical to have the buy-in of senior leaders to create and implement shared value programs. They can help bring in appropriate resources and the support of different departments or business units across the organization. Some speakers noted that this can be particularly challenging when working across geographies and seemed to believe that investing in better internal communications and awareness-raising throughout the organization can help.
- Use your programs as a catalyst to bring various stakeholders and audiences together. No organization should act alone, and as Steve Davis of PATH said, “We have to look at 21st century problems with multi-sectoral lenses.” When developing partnerships, speakers and attendees suggested that organizations consider working with peers to unite around common causes, leverage expertise, and maximize impact. They also recommended taking the time to invest in understanding the culture of the others you are working with to ensure that the groups can better collaborate and achieve their goals.
- Communicate your authenticity and focus on purpose. Embedding your purpose into your branding and communications can change the internal and external conversation about your company or organization. Stephen Kehoe of Visa explained that adding “for everyone, everywhere” to the company’s tagline has helped stakeholders shift their thinking from considering Visa as serving more affluent people to those at all levels of the financial spectrum, including those at the bottom of the pyramid. Other speakers also said that it’s important to be authentic in your communications about shared value programs and that this can generally result in greater media coverage and brand affinity.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on these themes or the event. To learn more about the Shared Value Initiative, visit www.sharedvalue.org.