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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Shared Value

Case Overview

FSG worked with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), the largest publisher of K-12 educational content in the U.S., to develop a shared value approach to improve student outcomes and grow their products and services in new markets.

The Challenge

An industry leader, HMH sells a wide range of digital and print content, technologies, and professional development services in more than 120 countries. In recent years, however, technological change, increasing competition, and rising federal emphasis on efficacy in student outcomes have challenged HMH to transform its business from selling textbooks to providing global education solutions. As an education company, tremendous potential existed for HMH to create significant shared value in the education market. Yet the social outcomes inherent in the company’s work were not connected to business outcomes or strategy.

Approach & Solutions

FSG led an in-depth process with HMH to develop and launch the company’s first shared value program strategy to uncover new opportunities for business growth and social impact. FSG conducted extensive interviews with HMH executives across multiple business units, as well as philanthropic funders and education leaders in the field, for context and input, and reviewed HMH’s past community engagement and business activities. This analysis yielded a suite of opportunities from which HMH’s senior leadership could prioritize four strategic focus areas to create shared value:

  1. Enhance effectiveness research to prove the value of HMH’s products and services
  2. Provide a comprehensive solution to turn around low performing schools
  3. Support teacher effectiveness in global markets
  4. Become a leading corporate citizen through book donations, volunteerism, and philanthropy

Each focus area works across HMH business units and utilizes the company’s unique business assets as the core driver of social impact. At the same time, these programmatic initiatives improve HMH’s value proposition to existing and new customers and improve its competitive positioning in the industry. To guide these initiatives to fruition, FSG also facilitated the internal launch of the shared value program and advised the new Global Corporate Social Responsibility team on all aspects of program implementation.

Ultimately, the shared value strategy has been integral to HMH’s transformation as a 21st Century education solutions company. FSG’s recommendations and support have moved the company’s engagement with society from a traditional philanthropic approach to a leveraged approach that is achieving both social and business impact.

About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the leading publisher of K- 12 textbooks.

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