Fortune magazine’s 2016 Change the World list came out earlier this month. I’m proud to say that PadillaCRT counts two companies ranked in the top 10 among its clients. I’m proud as well of the magazine for stepping beyond customary metrics to spotlight businesses that are recognizing the need to do things differently.
Read the August 2016 issue, and you’ll note the phrase Shared Value. Simply put, Shared Value moves corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability out of discrete initiatives and departments and into the very core of business strategy. It’s the evolution of the “Triple Bottom Line” of the ’90s, in which an organization’s impact on society was considered alongside its financial statements. Back then, the economic payoff of social investment wasn’t evident to investors. So for many businesses, Triple Bottom Line morphed into CSR initiatives that often had little connection to how these companies competed in the marketplace.
Fast forward to today. The world is smaller. Economic interdependencies are multiplying. NGOs have moved away from direct hits on businesses and toward shared missions. The public sector and private foundations are benefitting from business sensibilities. If businesses embrace corporate social responsibility as core to how they do business (i.e. Shared Value), their bottom lines will benefit. Hopefully, the stories that Fortune highlights are just the beginning of what the corporation of tomorrow becomes at its core.
Those of us who grew up in corporate communications or lead this function in our companies will celebrate this evolution of the CSR ethos. In fact, the Arthur W. Page Society – where chief communications officers from large organizations and their agency partners have gathered for decades – was built on principles that drive Shared Value. Its founders would be pleased to see the Change the World List – and likely wonder why it took so long to create.
But everything in its time. The glass house that is the internet has elevated both positive and negative examples of institutional behavior. Influencers no less than Michael Porter have urged organizations to make money and do good as the best (maybe the only) way to accomplish both goals in today’s world. And Porter’s institution, Harvard Business School, as well as others are giving the playbook to a whole new generation of leaders.
Shared Value is driven by another practicality: Today’s talent is looking to attach themselves to an employer with a purpose. That’s why PadillaCRT’s tagline, Connect with Purpose, is more than a slogan. It’s a way of life for us, and a way of working with our clients.
Just as the Triple Bottom Line has evolved to Shared Value, so has the time for communications professionals to help businesses succeed according to the expanded definition of success. Our playbook is not new. Thanks to Fortune magazine’s megaphone and business schools across the country, we will be using it with a more-receptive audience.