Creating Value through Social Innovation
By Kudzayi Ngwerume
The concept of companies adopting and supporting social innovation programs to contribute to the development of society is gaining momentum. At DAVOS 2015 – there was strong sentiment that social innovation from the private sector is important in tackling some of the biggest issues that societies face today. In the age of the concerned and connected consumer̽, companies are shifting from traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which have often been viewed as one-off PR tactics, to more involved programs for meaningful change.
As the business environment continues to rapidly evolve, value creation is moving from a more linear thinking (Michael Porter) to a more circular approach of co-creation and integration. This would mean that in order to actually have a sustainable impact, companies should move from attached activities of CSR towards integrating social innovation into the mainstream agenda of the business strategy. By doing this, it enables for a more reciprocal approach where companies are co-designing programs that are both good for the community and can maintain or even grow their bottom line. How this is achieved:
On the society end, they stand to benefit from access to resources (human and capital), breakthrough technology and sophisticated distribution networks that government and development organizations sometimes lack ultimately resulting in increased impact.
For companies, working towards socially positive initiatives is not all just an expense. Companies can add value to their business by engaging with communities, government and development organizations around social issues. Through these new partnerships they are able to access new perspectives and expertise that canal low them the opportunity to explore new markets, gather insights, innovate new products and more importantly develop brand image and perception by building trust through shared values.
Below are a couple examples of mutually beneficial corporate social innovation programs:
- 1. 5by20 Program (Coca-Cola)
Coca-Cola launched the 5by20 program in more than 40 countries around the world. They are working with a broad base of partners that include governments, NGOs, and civil society. The goal is a global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020.Programs focus on empowering women across 6 segments of the company’s value chain and include lowering barriers faced by female entrepreneurs. Read more on the program here: #5by20
- 2. Investing in improving Farmers lives (Unilever, Acumen & Clinton Foundation)
This program is a joint initiative by Acumen, Unilever and the Clinton Foundation. The program is a three-year, $10-million investment that will nurture and scale agricultural enterprises, which will support smallholder farmers and their communities by linking them to Unilever’s global supply chains and distribution networks. Read more Enhanced Livelihoods Investment Initiative
̽ According to the publication of Fifteen for 15 by A. Good. Must. Grow – Consious Consumer Spending Index indicates that nearly 30% of Americans plan on increasing their responsible spending.