The Shared Value movement has gained considerable traction since the 2011 Harvard Business Review article by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. The origins of this ‘Big Idea’ were rooted in the approach pioneered by Nestlé under the banner of Creating Shared Value (CSV). I have been a member of Nestlé’s CSV Advisory Board for several years, and hence – even preceding that – I have been a fairly active participant in the discussion, in public and behind closed doors, on whether Shared Value replaces CSR and even sustainability, or not.
So it was great to hear Professor Porter, at the fifth Nestlé CSV Forum, this time hosted in Cartagena, Colombia (and which took place after the meeting of the Advisory Board), both in public and behind closed doors, acknowledging that both the CSR and sustainability agendas have continuing roles to play; that the Shared Value concept is not a panacea.
But I think it goes beyond that. If Shared Value is essentially about creating new types of win-win outcomes, then sustainability—in addition—is about identifying and handling the inevitable win-lose and lose-lose outcomes that will cascade from the climate security, water security, energy security, food security and other grand challenges that the global economy will face in coming decades.
Many of these issues surfaced at the Forum which attracted both Colombia’s President Santos and the First Lady, and was one of the most interesting stakeholder events I have taken part in. Key reasons, aside from the exotic location, included the opportunity to see the further evolution of Nestlé’s thinking and practice, to meet leading social innovators and entrepreneurs from the region (including Martín Burt, of Fundación Paraguaya, who won the 2012 Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value, and Carl Ganter of Circle of Blue, where we are also represented on the Advisory Board), and to reconnect with other members of the CSV Advisory Board to review entries for the annual Nestlé’s Prize in Creating Shared Value.
I concluded that growing numbers of people in Colombia are interested in how new forms of Shared Value can be created and distributed, with the possible ending of over 50 years of conflict next year potentially a hugely energizing milestone on the road to OECD membership. But during my trip I also talked to people who see a country with extraordinary natural resources basically giving away extraction rights without proper attention. This raises the unhappy prospect of a different form of struggle—much of it beyond the realm of Shared Value, at least as currently defined—to get Colombia’s economy onto a truly sustainable trajectory.