Monday, May 7, 2012

Full Circle

In wrapping up this course, I thought the reading “Creating Shared Value” by Porter and Kramer nicely moved our discussion in what could be if we blended economic, social, and environmental performance with maximizing value for a global community. At first this vision seems to be a reiteration of previous calls for companies, nongovernmental organizations, and governments to work together for mutual benefits. We’ve all followed social responsibility campaigns by big companies. Some focus on charity work and contributions others make “human energy” awareness campaigns. But “shared value” claims to be something more than what we’ve seen from the usual suspects. Both Porter and Kramer add to the topic by mixing ideas and experiences working with some of the worlds leading companies. For example, many Intel and energy companies are producing products that allow them to make profits while fulfilling a societal need.  We’re not talking about only small businesses or unique social enterprises here. We’re talking about industry leaders framing their visions with an humanitarian/communitarian ethic.

The article makes a case for why it’s time for a “value vision” to take center stage in our discussions regarding not only the future of business, but the nature of capitalism itself. It is possible that since the financial crisis, there are more leaders who are open to Porter and Kramer’s understanding of capitalism focused on a broader understanding of “shared value”. But can this new phase of social responsibility really shift the underlying values of capitalism and the effects greed on the public? Maybe. There is no doubt the innovation and economic growth through this model can be rewarding for multiple stakeholders.

There seems to be no shortage of social innovations and potential projects for companies to take under their wings. But will companies make the write structural and cultural changes to put these ideas in place? Can governments under the current climate work with businesses fast enough to help materialize these potential projects? I don’t know. Nevertheless, this reading did make me feel a little better about the future.

Creating Shared Value (Porter and Kramer, Harvard Business Review, January-February 2011)

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