“Unite people even in a world of differences”
I recently lead our CSR and Corporate Citizenship teams in an animated review of one of my favorite books: SuperCorp. The author, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, is a Professor at Harvard Business School and constantly impresses me with her prolific authorship on management and how businesses can do well by doing good. The latter is the premise of SuperCorp.
The book reminds me of a presentation by Michael Porter at the June CECP Corporate Philanthropy Summit, on the Shared Value concept. In the wake of the recent recession and corporate scandals, businesses face an urgency to legitimize their roles in society. Porter called for corporations to maximize profit and competitiveness by creating shared value (CSV) between their business and society (NGOs, employees, governments, etc). In today's globalized, ever more transparent and interconnected world, companies do not have to trade-off between social and economic benefits.
This concept is the outcome of the most strategic execution of corporate citizenship. Kanter’s book provides powerful case examples from around the globe of this exciting new business shift.
The Vanguard company is the new corporate paradigm
At the heart of SuperCorpis Kanter’s new corporate paradigm which she calls Vanguard companies. These companies have a deeply embedded sense of mission and purpose. Vanguard companies:
· Are big but human
· Are efficient but innovative
· Are global but concerned about local communities
· Use their political influence over governments to develop solutions to problems of public concern
· Align business performance with societal contributions
· Involve all stakeholders
The list of qualities goes on, but I wanted to point out two main themes:
1. Human Capital: If you are not generous with empowered people, they will not choose you.
2. Innovation: When you bring society inside the organization, possibilities increase for success at every point in the innovation process.
Companies have a strategic advantage to benefit society in many ways. They have strong core capabilities, have local market knowledge, are quicker to market than many NGOs and have economies of scale and scope. They can also be powerful innovators. Vanguard companies gain their power from their ability to integrate the pieces, create collaboration and nourish partnerships for greater innovation.
Companies like GE are catching on. Ecomagination is GE’s business initiative to imagine and build innovative solutions to today’s environmental challenges while driving economic growth. In 2009, GE’s Ecomagination products earned $18 billion in revenue. Ecomagination invested $1.5 billion in R&D last year, and plans to invest an additional $10 billion by 2015.
As Michael Porter said, shared value creation will be THE business agenda in the next few decades. In short, SuperCorp is one of the best books I have read on Corporate Citizenship and I recommend it to all clients, employees and friends interested in the space.