Creating business value while generating social value

Published on September 13, 2014

Business knows how to create value but today’s most progressive businesses are using business value to generate social value – and vice versa.

In recent years business has focused on harm reduction, particularly environmental, with an increasing understanding of its social responsibility. But realizing that our planet has a limited capacity and a ballooning population and that economic prosperity is leaving many behind, some businesses are going further.

They are developing innovative approaches to improving societal well-being. And there’s no time like the present given the scale of the social challenges ahead, challenges that will also have a bottom-line impact – rising income inequality, high unemployment, aging populations, food poverty and obesity. (The juxtaposition of food poverty and obesity is no mistake but that’s another story.)

These companies are pursuing initiatives that create business value while generating social value. However, they lack a roadmap to guide them on their journey. This was the inspiration for a new report funded by Employment and Social Development Canada: “Social Value Business Guide”.

It builds upon guidelines I developed for Industry Canada on the social sustainability role of Canadian business and the “CSR as a Poverty Reduction Strategy” checklist tool, which I continue to enhance. The Social Value Business Guide focuses on four social sustainability opportunities from this checklist that are likely to have the most impact for a company’s first steps.

The guide provides an overview of the social context for Canadian business and describes opportunities to create social value through community hiring, living wages, and social buying. It introduces a step-wise framework to help businesses become social innovators. It describes how they can re-engineer their business models by using the emerging tools of social innovation: design thinking, rapid prototyping, innovation labs, open innovation platforms and big data.

Check out the guide to find ways your business can create and scale social value while delivering financial value. Use it to help your company contribute to inclusive and equitable communities at home, abroad or along your value chain. Together we can help business harness its unique resources, insights and assets to tackle the top social issues of our time.

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