Having returned to Australia after spending the last seven years consulting in the diverse social impact space in Europe and Asia, I have seen first-hand the shared value journey that organisations-big and small-go on as they work out what it means to create social and financial value.
Here are three organisational trends that I’ve seen that are reflected in the evolving social impact space in Australia.
Small organisations are ahead of the game.
Firstly, the small group of leaders in the sector continue to evolve and innovate.
This small group of companies, which includes the likes of Unilever, PepsiCo and Interface have changed how they view and run themselves as a business to focus on delivering shared value across their whole operations.
One member of this group is Marks & Spencer (M&S), a UK retailer which has long been a leader in the retail sector, particularly in the context of supply chain sustainability, garment production and human rights. I have had the privilege of working hand in hand with M&S and its food and garment suppliers to co-design health and environment initiatives and campaigns to improve the health and well-being of its supply chain workers. M&S have now reached over 100,000 workers with this new approach which has enabled it to reduce the environmental impact of its business, improve the health and safety of its employees while also increasing the resilience of its supply chain.
Now at Ellis Jones, I’m excited to be working with clients like Opal Aged Care who are at the start of their shared value journey. We’re working with Opal to understand the social and environmental impact of the business across its operations, and how it can deliver these outcomes while continuing to bring financial return to its shareholders.
The big players are scrambling to catch up.
The large majority of companies however, are at the very start of their shared value journey and grappling with how to align their corporate responsibility or sustainability strategy with their business goals.
For example, I worked with Virgin Media, a UK based national media company for many years to refine their approach to the issues of youth unemployment and entrepreneurship. In particular, I worked with their team to co-create Virgin Media Pioneers (VMP), a digital platform, which enables young UK based entrepreneurs to connect to their peers, engage with the wider business community as well as Virgin Media specific business opportunities. The VMP platform now has over 11,000 members and provides VMP with business consumer insights, skilled volunteering opportunities for employees and highly marketable social outcomes.
Cross-sector collaborations are creating shared value.
The third group of organisations that are gaining strength in this space are those that work across sectors to create partnerships to amplify social impact.
While in Singapore, I worked with Asia P3 Hub, Asia’s first cross-sector partnership hub, to develop its Theory of Change and M&E framework. I looked at how it could leverage the experience of corporate, government and not-for-profits to tackle WASH issues in the Asia Pacific.
In Australia, the Shared Value Project is helping to bring together some of these partnerships. World Vision is similarly taking a leadership approach here to change how it works with corporates to deliver shared goals.
At our event, ‘Social impact collaborators #2: Where to from here?’, I will be discussing these phases in detail and will be outlining how we, in Australia, can learn from them. You will also hear about some of the exciting projects that Sarah Bailey, Partnerships Manager from the Shared Value Project and Melinda Macleod, Program Director, Environmental Resilience, at BHP Billiton Foundation are delivering.