November 6-7, 2013
Over 75 workshop participants from various industries and across the public, private and civil society sectors came together to discuss innovative, experimental, and synergetic approaches to sustainable development. Delegates were challenged to think beyond the boundaries of CSR and to reconceive the intersection of society and corporate performance.
Throughout the symposium, a recurring theme was the importance of leadership at the heart of driving collaboration and shared value creation around sustainable development. Innovative change and collaboration begins through the vision of individuals, championing and leading within their organizations toward a refined focus on social and economic value creation. Leaders must set a clear vision for collaboration and determine exactly what partnerships are established to achieve.
Various examples of ‘shared value creation’ were presented and examined, including work by organizations such as WWF Canada, G Adventures, RBC Bank, Aspire Food Group, and Tembec Forestry.
An important area for many industries to focus on driving innovation and shared value creation was around the upstream and downstream value chains. An oragnization’s value chain can create profound economic and social value for local communities. Re-defining the value chain includes broadening the vision of procurement to recognize that local SME businesses can be more competitive, have greater access to credit, and exhibit greater flexibility to integrate within global supply chains than is currently acknowledged. Broadening the value chain begins with supporting local suppliers by increasing their access to inputs (capital, material, human resources, etc.), sharing technologies and providing catalytic financing to help them improve quality and productivity. As suppliers gain strength and experience, they become a sustainable source of economic development and well-being in the local community. A redefinition of the value chain also means greater emphasis on investing in knowledge. NGOs, businesses and governments working together ot increase the market and financial literacy of communities, provide practical business advice and skills, and increase access to value chain inputs all serves to create a foundation for a strong local economy and community.
Finally, a key challenge in all of this work relates to the measurement challenge. One of the greatest hurdles to sustainable development is the lack of data to support collaboration and shared value initiatives. “Everything boils down to numbers that you can be measured on. If you measure it, you can manage it.” Metrics drive change and performance across stakeholders. Common measurements are important to creating a shared reality of the local context, allowing multiple stakeholder groups to understand the assets, gaps, and needs in a community, to determine where value can be created, and to inform decisions directing sustainable change.
The sustainable development may be long, undefined and pose many hurdles, but it is imminently clear that attention on collaboration and shared value is here to stay.