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Building Internal Buy-in for CSV

FSG’s webinar on “Creating Shared Value in Action” prompted dozens of insightful questions from attendees last week. The webinar, held in partnership with the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), brought together FSG’s Mark Kramer, Nestle’s Janet Voûte, Dow Chemical’s Tony Kingsbury, and Novartis’ Dorje Mundle for a discussion on what shared value means, and how leading companies are putting the concept into practice.

One topic of interest to me is the role of creating and sustaining internal buy-in for shared value. As one webinar attendee asked last week: “What are some best practices that senior leaders have used to create 'buy-in' from every level of the organization/company on the importance of pursuing creating shared value?”

This question prompted me to think back to one of my first FSG engagements in late 2009. Our team conducted benchmarking research for a Fortune 500 oil and gas company, which was interested in promising practices for addressing social issues that drive business value. One important finding from our research was the critical role of executive leadership, typically the CEO, as a strong internal and external champion of incorporating social issues into business strategy. As we found in researching promising practices from other companies, CEOs can bring to bear their authority internally to align the organization, and use their influence on industry and government to push for change on a more systemic level.

This theme of internal buy-in was echoed in FSG’s recent CSV How-to Guide, which identified ten key building blocks that form a blueprint for translating shared value into action. The report highlighted the need top-down, inside-out support of shared value, including the following insights that point to internal buy-in:
 

  • The first building block of shared value starts with an explicit strategic decision from senior leadership. The credibility of CEO leadership in setting a vision for shared value is essential in bringing other interested parties to the table. For example, the De Beers Group’s CEO has championed an industrywide initiative to reduce the demand for conflict diamonds. Because shared value is a strategic decision, the role of top-down support for shared value cannot be understated.
  • Another important building block of shared value requires managing efforts holistically across the company. While CEO leadership is important, social engagement must be integrated across roles and functions. For example, Nestle has developed a training program for all its employees to explain shared value and how it relates to their work.
  • In managing shared value performance, it is also essential to communicate progress internally and externally. To drive internal buy-in for shared value, companies must focus on the role of employee engagement. For example, HP has engaged with 150 senior managers to communicate its social innovation strategy to a broader base of company employees.

The role of employee buy-in was reinforced by the 2010 UN Global Compact CEO Survey. This survey found that employees were second only to consumers in having the greatest impact on the way companies can drive a shared value strategy. CEOs rated employees ahead of governments, communities, regulators, media, and other audiences in terms of impacting how a company intersects with society.

While employee engagement is critical, companies need to start from the top and progressively push a shared value agenda from the management chain down to employees. Embedding a shared value approach is long-term process that cannot be done quickly, but when it is done properly it can reap rewards for business and society.

Given the need for building buy-in for shared value, what are some other promising examples of how companies have shifted their internal mindset for driving business and social value?

Robert Albright

Director of Programs Collective Impact Forum