The FSG annual retreat—my first ever—just drew to a close. We convened in Boston to share best practices, celebrate this year’s achievements, and plot a course ahead. The energy of my colleagues was infectious and the sense of optimism, palpable. So much has occurred in 2011 across the firm, but especially in the area of creating shared value. Since Mark Kramer and Michael Porter published “Creating Shared Value” in Harvard Business Review’s January edition, we have seen the shared value concept embraced, challenged, honed, adapted, and disseminated across the world. There is tremendous momentum going into 2012: Shared value was discussed at Davos last week while the Economist predicts that it will be one of the top trends in 2012. We are particularly pleased to see it cropping up in unexpected places. Our Mumbai colleagues report that the HBR shared value article is being hawked by vendors weaving in and out of the city’s notoriously traffic-clogged streets.
My introduction to shared value came in April at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. where Nestle and the Atlantic Council brought together experts from academia, government, and business to discuss how businesses can increase competitiveness while addressing social challenges. It was a fortuitous moment for me, as it was my first encounter with FSG, my new home. The conference brought into sharper focus how shared value can improve a company’s performance while extending access to critically needed medical services in Tanzania or teaching a small-scale landholder how to increase her yields and her income. Poverty, health, equity, environmental protection—these are the challenges of our times and they are not going to be solved by government or NGO action alone. Nor will corporate charity, however well-meaning, achieve the appreciable change that is needed. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton underscores this point in a recent Financial Times article in which he outlines how companies are moving their culture from promoting social responsibility to increasing shared value. In the coming year, FSG will continue working with a range of pioneering companies that are finding opportunities at the intersection of business and social value. These projects will take us to Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and our backyard—a testament to the global reach of shared value and its potential to transform how companies operate, compete, and drive social change.