Tina Stowell Associates

Blog » 2011 » February

  • 22

    Shared Value has got to be better than Corporate Social Responsibility

    February 22nd, 2011 | no comments | Posted in Uncategorized

    I’ve read Andrew Hill’s column in today’s FT three times now and I’m still not sure whether he thinks this new thing called ‘shared value’ is good or bad.

    I had not heard the term before this morning and I’m naturally sceptical about anything which sounds like another new gimmick, but if you read beyond the label I do think this has merit.

    In fact, it gives greater meaning to the point I tried to make in an earlier post (‘make yourself useful‘) about a TLG pamphlet covering the same topic.

    Basically, what the main protagonists of this approach argue is this: ‘shared value’ means finding ways to run your business which will ensure you achieve your core purpose, make a profit and contribute to society all at the same time.

    The reason why I think it has merit is because it is not a ‘bolt-on’ do-good kind of thing; it’s about using the central purpose and goal of the organisation to drive change. And, as the TLG pamphlet and associated Populus research showed, doing this improves an organisation’s corporate reputation and all other associated benefits because it is action which is authentic.

    Andrew Hill refers to a Harvard Business Review article by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer (authors of this neologism [am adding link to Wikipedia on neologism only because I don’t mind admitting I had to look it up myself…]. I’m not a subscriber to HBR, but the short intro available for free gives enough of a gist of what follows. I particularly like this quote:

    “Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center.”

    Of course any effort to get involved in local communities or to improve the environment is a good thing and shouldn’t be discouraged. But I’ve never been convinced about the long-term benefits of corporate activity carried out under the heading ‘corporate social responsibility’ because too often it lacks meaning and feels like a PR stunt (and at it’s worse, something to make companies and/or their execs feel better rather than to actually achieve anything useful).

    Far better if that contribution to society is hard-wired into corporate strategy and is central to delivering the purpose of the organisation: that’s what makes it real.

    I agree with Andrew Hill’s conclusion:

    “More companies are learning to reap commercial benefits from strategies that have a wider social value. That’s great. But the basic job of coaxing capitalism in the right direction is the same as it always has been: find ways to harness society’s needs to companies’ self-interest and hope the two stay together.”

    But the ‘shared value’ approach has got to be better than corporate social responsibility for everyone’s benefit, surely?

  • 16

    Wrong to give people a chance to decide, but to not really mean it

    February 16th, 2011 | no comments | Posted in Uncategorized

    This morning in the House of Lords we have been considering ‘Commons amendments and reasons’ on our amendments to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (aka the AV Bill). (Stick with me on this….)

    There were three amendments for our consideration, other Lords amendments having been accepted by the Commons.

    The Government was defeated by a majority of 62 votes on one of those amendments and the Bill has now gone back to the Commons. This is what is called ping-pong.

    I won’t go into all the detail (check out the BBC website if you need more info), but basically Lord Rooker won an amendment which introduces a 40% threshold on turnout for the referendum on AV. In other words, if less than 40% of the electorate turn out to vote, their decision (yes or no) is not binding, but becomes indicative and then Parliament gets to decide whether or not to change the voting system used to elect MPs.

    The debate on this one amendment alone lasted over an hour and all the speeches were very compelling. Even so, I voted against the amendment.

    As I’ve only been in the House a few weeks I shied away from engaging in the debate whilst it was in full flow in the Chamber.  So I thought I’d do a post here instead to explain why.

    Here goes:

    The principle behind my objection to Lord Rooker’s amendment is that I believe it is wrong to give people a chance to decide something, but to not really mean it…

    Let me be clear: I am not in favour of changing our electoral voting system. Furthermore, I do not believe that changing our voting system per se will restore the public’s confidence in our system of politics; which is what some politicians (Labour as well as LibDems) have argued.

    But I nonetheless accept the Coalition’s decision to put this to a referendum.

    And, having done so, I believe the way in which this matter is put to the public is very important if we are not to reinforce their negative view of our political system.  Indeed a genuine referendum, where we give people the chance to decide whether to retain our tried-and-tested electoral system or to change it, might even be a first step to restoring public confidence: a goal which unites us all.

    I believe acheiving that goal – by whichever means different parties or politicians might believe best – is only possible if we keep in mind that public opinion is influenced not just by what we say, but by what we do and how we do it. Or to be blunt, for us to be taken seriously and for confidence to be restored, we must not say one thing and do another.

    Therefore, and quite simply in my mind, if we are to offer a referendum on the voting system we must be genuine in providing the public the opportunity to decide.

    Introducing a threshold so Parliament has a ‘get-out card’ and can reject the will of those who bother to turn out and vote is not a genuine offer.

    A genuine offer is politicians accepting responsibility – whether in the No or Yes camps – for making a compelling case, for encouraging people to vote and to making sure they understand it really is up to the public to decide. And then providing them the opportunity to do so.

    As I write, the amendment has gone back to the Commons and – if they reject it – it will be back with us again in the Lords sometime after 10pm tonight.

    If the the same amendment is put to another vote, my position will remain unchanged.