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  • Posted by: Meghann Fraser on Thursday, July 24 2014 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

    How leading companies advance their business and brand by creating shared value  

    Canadian Tire Jumpstart

    The world now faces an increasingly complex set of challenges: growing income inequality, climate change, and food scarcity, to name just a few. While governments and NGOs continue their work in these areas, the corporate sector is now standing up to help address these issues, recognizing that the world is moving towards a new center of balance where societal impact is just as important as profits. Leading companies around the globe are acting to create meaningful change that not only advances business objectives and the world in a sustainable way, but also continually strengthens brand value. 

    However, a review CSR reports, even among leading Canadian companies, reveals that many organizations are simply going through the motions, either aiming for minimum targets for regulatory compliance or recasting standard business practices through a politically expedient lens. In both instances, these organizations are missing valuable opportunities to create positive social impact, enhance the long-term viability of their business, and share more compelling and differentiating stories with the marketplace. By shifting focus from compliance to creating shared value, these companies can strengthen both their business performance and brand.    

    What is Shared Value?  

    Shared value is the idea that a company can create measureable business value by addressing social issues that directly intersect with its business. The notion goes beyond philanthropy or sustainability efforts to identifying specific challenges that will grow the company’s profits while creating positive outcomes for society. Michael Porter and Michael Kramer, who coined the term, identified unique ways companies can create these shared value opportunities, including product innovation that focuses on societal benefits, efficiencies in the supply chain that reduce environmental impact, and supportive industry relationships in the communities where a company operates.    

    Many leading companies have realized the benefits of creating shared value, such as GE. Since launching its Ecomagination business in 2005, the company has earned over $105 billion in revenue from associated products and services. Focused on building innovative solutions for today’s environmental challenges, the Ecomagination business has grown at twice the rate of the rest of the company. Walmart has realized similar success with its own shared value initiatives. In its efforts to reduce product packaging and optimize delivery routes, Walmart has lowered its carbon emissions while saving $200 million in costs—a clear and dramatic example of redefining productivity in its value chain.    

    Shared Value and Brand Value  

    But beyond driving revenue and improving margin, shared value initiatives provide companies with the opportunity to build brand value. No matter what the goal—from enhancing employee clarity on the company’s purpose to differentiating the brand or improving perceived authenticity and relevance—creating shared value fortifies the attributes that strengthen B2B or B2C brands. The result is a brand better able to drive choice, enhance loyalty, and ultimately increase brand value.   

    Shared Value and Internal Clarity  

    A key tenet to any strong brand is an internal sense of clarity. After all, how can employees be responsible for delivering a brand they don’t understand? This includes being aligned with what the brand stands for—its purpose in the world—so they can engage fully and deliver on its promise. Studies show that companies enjoy significant benefits from highly engaged employees, and frequently see uplift in every business performance indicator: profitability +16 percent, productivity +18 percent, customer loyalty +12 percent, and quality +60 percent.    

    Canadian outdoor recreation outfitter, MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), understands its purpose in the world (inspiring Canadians to be active outdoors) and motivates employees accordingly. But to fulfill its mission, MEC understands it must go beyond providing equipment and play a role in conserving the outdoor spaces where people use MEC’s gear. Through its involvement in local communities and outdoor industry associations, and its integrated business and sustainability strategy, MEC embodies shared value. It is building supportive industry clusters that create, develop, and innovate opportunities within its market, while ensuring employees understand the brand’s purpose.    

    Shared Value and Differentiation  

    Canada’s leading telecommunications brands have struggled to differentiate and drive consumer choice beyond price, but one brand stands out for making significant strides to separate itself from the pack. With the launch of Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative in 2010, the company has made progress to put an end to the stigma surrounding mental health by raising national awareness and committing $62 million in funding. While Let’s Talk is playing a vital role in bringing attention to one of the most widespread health issues in this country, it is also helping Bell engage with consumers in a more meaningful way—on the very devices they provide to them. This effort differentiates the brand in a way that has been proven to drive consumer choice and loyalty.  

    Shared Value and Authenticity  

    To convey authenticity effectively, a brand’s communications must consistently align with its actions. For instance, as Canadian financial services brands send messages of partnership and support to customers, consumer debt levels head to a forecasted all-time high in 2014— largely due to easy access to credit. One exception is National Bank.    

    With its ClearFacts initiative, National Bank provides consumers with a plethora of free advice to help Canadians make more sound financial decisions today and tomorrow. Guidance spans from how to best manage daily expenses, such as cell phone data usage, to longer-term considerations like buying a home and planning for retirement. By creating a service that supports the financial health of consumers, National Bank is strengthening its credibility and the authenticity of its brand.    

    Shared Value and Relevance  

    In Canada, childhood obesity is expected to have significant impact on industries such as healthcare and insurance, yet one brand taking on the issue represents a different sector altogether. In 2013, Canadian Tire launched a national advertising campaign bringing broader awareness to childhood obesity, encouraging parents and kids alike to embrace sport and outdoor activity to live better. Canadian Tire extends this effort far beyond ad campaigns by continuously supporting its Jumpstart initiative. Founded in 2005, Canadian Tire Jumpstart enables financially disadvantaged kids to participate in sports by helping to cover the cost of registration, equipment, and transportation. These cumulative efforts notably enhance the brand’s relevance with Canadians by driving interest and engagement in sport, and ultimately, health and well-being.      

    The concept of creating shared value is equally relevant to the non-profit sector. In focusing on new ways to partner, non-profit organizations along with their corporate sector donors are transforming traditional corporate philanthropy into shared value opportunities. One NGO taking on this approach is Plan Canada. “We’re finding more and more opportunities to engage with our corporate partners, moving beyond donations to engaging their employees more holistically,” says Paula Roberts, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Development at Plan Canada. Not only does this approach support Plan Canada’s work in various regions across the globe, but it also strengthens employee engagement levels within its corporate partner base, a proven metric to enhance both productivity and profitability within a business.    

    In creating shared value, these brands demonstrate the opportunity at hand: to be leading Corporate Citizens while strengthening their organizations’ bottom line and brand value. By stepping outside category norms, each has shown how doing what is beneficial for society can, in turn, be beneficial to the business and brand. As more companies move from compliance to embracing shared value in their strategic business planning, we will hopefully see an exciting evolution in category norms altogether. 

    Meghan Fraser is a Director of Strategy for Interbrand Canada. You can follow her on Twitter @meghannfraser.

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  • Posted by: Dominik Prinz on Wednesday, July 2 2014 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

    The annual “Good Pitch” in NYC is a unique event. Bringing together documentary filmmakers and thought leaders from both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, it is meant to inspire. But, most importantly, this meeting of the minds catalyzes powerful partnerships aimed at solving some of the world’s most pressing issues.    

    Change is a tricky thing to achieve. Especially when it comes to social justice. It requires a strong, clear vision others can rally around. It requires powerful incentives that motivate others to join in. And it requires persistence, because change doesn’t come easily.   

    All these ingredients were present in abundance last week, when one of several global Good Pitch events opened its gates to various filmmakers in New York: Each and every one of them introduced a personal vision of what needs to change in the world to make it more just, more tolerant, more sustainable, and more balanced.   

    The issues raised by the participating filmmakers ranged from critiques of the American criminal justice system to conservation. 3 ½ Minutes, for example, dissects the tragic shooting death of teenager, Jordan Davis, and the legal controversy surrounding the case. Another film, Seed, follows farmers and scientists trying to protect the diversity of agriculture and highlights the battle for the future of our seeds. And the documentary, Virunga, tells the incredible story of the brave people risking their lives to save a World Heritage site in the Congo—home to the last of the mountain gorillas and one of the most bio-diverse places on earth.   

    Opening up the event, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, affirmed the important role films like these play in furthering positive social change. “The arts,” he said, “are a profound means of improving the human experience; and film is a timeless ally in the ongoing quest for justice.”   

    I could not agree more. We live in a fast-paced, attention span challenged world where younger people often gain more education and inspiration through short films and YouTube video clips than they do through the written word. And the fact that there was no dry eye in the room when Jordan Davis’ parents talked about the unimaginable pain caused by the injustice inflicted upon their son was a testament to the power of visual storytelling to raise awareness and inspire transformative action.   

    That’s where Good Pitch adds a unique (and indispensable) ingredient to the filmmakers’ vision and persistence: it facilitates engagement and allows influential allies and members of civil society to learn about—and get behind—each filmmaker’s cause. Whether it’s on-the-spot financial support to complete a film’s production, or PR and media connections that help amplify its reach, the collective action this gathering of change-makers inspires transcends the room it takes place in. By supporting documentary filmmaking and expanding the audience for social justice-focused films, the Good Pitch’s galvanizing spirit brings these stories to more people. As viewers, we are invited to bear witness, to join the fight against injustice, and to awaken our own potential for visionary leadership and activism, as well.   

    Events like Good Pitch provide yet another pathway of empowerment, enabling people to learn more about what’s not working in the world and giving them the tools to do something about it. From Kickstarter and Crowdrise, to dosomething.org and causes.com—these platforms for change can only be enriched by thought-provoking documentary films. After all, being aware of a problem is the first step in fixing it.    

    The fact that the event gives representatives of the branding and business world a seat at the table speaks to the important role some of the most recognized brands play in this conversation. The Fords, Patagonias, Googles, and Netflixes of this world can—and must—use their sphere of influence to scale the vision of filmmakers such as those who participated in Good Pitch. Those with immense resources and influence can do much to accelerate the kinds of changes we all want to see in this world.   

    Dominik Prinz is Strategy Director at Interbrand New York. Follow him on Twitter: @DomPrinz

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  • Posted by: Tom Zara on Friday, June 6 2014 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

    As the Global Practice Leader of Corporate Citizenship at Interbrand, the focus of my efforts center around shaping strategies that connect the “heart” and “brain” of organizations to create positive change in our world. These efforts to reconcile human values and economic performance are in the service of many of the world’s greatest brands—brands managed by the titans of commerce and brands that touch millions of consumers across the globe.

    At Interbrand, we invest in the creation of programs that meet five criteria for success and employ highly motivated creative teams to develop content that engages employees and customers in support of cause-related programs—all within the confines of glass and steel structures of corporate edifices. We have an intellectual grasp of the cause, sufficient points of reference to shape the tactics of a program, and assurances that what is planned is, in fact, executed. The brain is fully engaged in this strategic process. 

    But where is the heart? 

    This past November, I was invited to join a team from Procter & Gamble, working on the Pampers brand, as well as members of the UNICEF corporate partnership team to fly half way around the world to the Island of Flores in Indonesia. Our purpose was to document the Pampers/UNICEF Maternal Neonatal Tetanus program, nine years in force, and support its worthy objective: eradicating a preventable disease that kills a newborn baby every nine minutes. The program meets every standard of excellence we prescribe to our clients, so my expectations were high. My understanding of the program was well-informed and the metrics of its impact were meticulously documented. All that was left to appreciate was the hands-on participation in the actual implementation of the vaccine program. What transpired during my time in Indonesia was a life-changing experience. 

    Tom Zara

    Tom Zara (left), Global Practice Leader of Corporate Citizenship at Interbrand and Matthew Price (right) of Pampers, are greeted by roosters during their trip to Indonesia.

    Roeteng is the largest city in the central region of Flores, roughly 950 miles due east from Jakarta. Arriving by plane from Denpasar, we then traveled three hours to our destination: a picturesque mountain village in rural Indonesia, removed from everything most Westerners consider “normal.” This is a place where one-room homes with mud floors, limited access to potable water, and subsistence farming are the norm. And, everywhere we looked, there were children, curious and welcoming.  

    In the central gathering hut of the village, we witnessed the complexity and impact of the MNT vaccine program in all of its glory. Mothers lined up with their newborn children—patiently waiting to be examined by the visiting nurses, ready to receive their vaccines and grateful for the medical attention being administered. Observing the procession of young families in search of basic medical services brought my own privilege into sharp relief—access to medical care, both basic and advanced, is something many of us take for granted. But here, receiving preventative care was something to celebrate and a cause for joy. The gratitude was heartfelt. These women now had confidence that their health, and the health of their babies, was secured. The whole village, in fact, participated in the bounty of medical attention and human compassion. 

    Just a short walk to the fringe of the village sat a two-room school. As we approached, we were greeted by a group of beautiful children—all neat in their school uniforms, flashing brilliant smiles and squealing with laughter as we tried to communicate using hands and comical gestures. We proceeded to give these children second doses of the MNT vaccine, which were received with enthusiasm, fearlessness, and calm—a response we were not expecting, but one that gave us insight into the dignity and strength of these children. In their eyes, shone the light of hope and the promise of health.

    As moving experiences like this illustrate, the impact of the Pampers/UNICEF program is not simply measured by statistics. It is also measured by its contribution to the well-being of an individual, a family, and a whole community. While the vaccine is designed to eradicate the incidence of tetanus, the real gift of the MNT program is prolonged life—and optimism. For me, the gift of the program is the tangible sensation of seeing and feeling its impact. Thanks to my journey, I can now be a more credible advocate for the generous initiatives powerful brands make possible—and, for that, I will be eternally grateful. 

    Tom Zara is the Global Practice Leader of Corporate Citizenship at Interbrand. You can follow him on Twitter: ‪@zaracsr4change  

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  • Posted by: Asher Fink on Tuesday, May 27 2014 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

    In late April, Interbrand's Tom Zara, Dominik Prinz, Asher Fink, and Kristin Reagan visited Guatemala with members of Pencils of Promise's leadership team. The Interbrand team visited pre-build sites, schools under construction, completed schools, and observed lessons in the classrooms. Below, Interbrand New York's Asher Fink answers a few questions about the trip and the Pencils of Promise mission.

    A classroom in Guatemala

    You were the one who connected Interbrand and Pencils of Promise initially. How did that come about?

    When I first started working at Interbrand, one of the internal culture building activities that impressed me most was our World Changing Speaker series. Speakers doing world changing things come to our office, talk about their pursuits, and make it clear that, 1. we aren't doing nearly enough to change the world, and 2. we should go out and change the world. Adam, one of the biggest world changers of our generation, happens to be a friend. We went to summer camp together growing up, and I’d been tracking his success with Pencils of Promise (PoP) over the years. I knew my friends at Interbrand would be as inspired by his story as I was. So, I invited Adam to come to Interbrand and speak. As expected, his visit got us all fired up to get involved.   

    Adam Braun, CEO/Founder of Pencils of Promise, came to Interbrand's New York office about a year ago. You hosted a brainstorm at your apartment the very next day. What did the Interbrand team discuss during that first impromptu meeting?

    Actually, it wasn’t impromptu. After Adam’s speech, we hung out, had some beers, and talked shop. Melanie, PoP’s COO, had an upcoming offsite with the PoP team and she wanted to put brand on the agenda but didn't know where to start. So, over breakfast the next day, Dominik Prinz, Emily Grant and I mapped out the perfect exercises for Melanie to run with her team.   

    Can you tell me about one or two of the exercises, and what you learned?   

    Melanie asked her team to envision that, three years from now, Pencils of Promise is featured on the front page of The New York Times. What would the headline would be? This exercise often reveals the driving purpose behind an organization’s approach that makes them unique. We weren’t at the offsite to hear the answers, but Melanie shared the results with us and they were interesting. Some headlines were focused on the regions themselves (e.g., "How a young, groundbreaking organization is transforming Africa"). Some were focused on impact through sheer numbers of students reached (e.g.,"PoP educates its 1,000,000th student"). One answer I found particularly interesting described PoP’s success in cracking the code to improving education in the developing world. It spoke to the whole approach PoP takes to improving education.   

    Working with Pencils of Promise

    I assume you saw this in action in Guatemala?   

    On our trip to Guatemala, we saw all of this first hand. We saw the smiling faces of children in the schools that PoP built, but we also saw the things that seem like smaller details but are critical to a successful and sustainable education program. We saw the community enlisted in building and sustaining their own school. We saw the use of sound-proofing techniques for the roofs that replace the corrugated tin (commonly used in rural parts of developing countries) that makes it impossible to hear when rain is pummeling the roof. We also took note of a curriculum tailored to the region—where 21 different dialects of the Mayan language make it so that teacher and student don't always speak the same language. We watched a water purification lesson that is taught because parasites taint the water they drink, which makes kids too sick to learn and often leads to them quitting school altogether. We met Jesse, the country leader of Guatemala, whose primary focus is to work closely with the communities to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the education of each child. Speaking with him and witnessing his passion and leadership made PoP’s unique approach clear to me.   

    Asher and kids

    What’s next in your work with PoP?   

    After working alongside PoP as they developed their brand, a natural next step to strengthening and protecting the brand was to evolve their approach to partnerships. As brands continue to crawl over each other to try to get a piece of PoP’s action, they needed a plan for choosing their opportunities wisely, to maximize the effectiveness of their resources, reduce risk, and ultimately increase impact.   

    We’ve been working to identify the key activities that PoP should be engaging in, the ideal partner types and the profile of an ideal partner. We also created a decision tool, in the form of a filter, that helps PoP employees deliberately manage the partnership selection and integration process. This tool is helping them streamline the process, and uncover opportunities that would have been overlooked in the past.  

    Asher is Senior Consultant at Interbrand's New York office. Follow him on Twitter: @asherfink


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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Thursday, May 22 2014 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Closing the Gap: Bringing Sustainable Solutions to Customers

    A great deal of innovative CSR work is happening in the business world every day, but there are still too many gaps and missed opportunities.   

    When a recent survey by Walmart's Global Customer Insights and Analytics group revealed that 96 percent of Walmart shoppers indicated they had purchased sustainable products in the past year, the company realized that low prices are only one of numerous expectations. Further, with nine billion people projected to inhabit the planet by 2050, driving efficiency across the current food system is imperative. For Walmart, the key to bringing sustainable solutions to all of its customers is collaboration. Now, the retail giant is joining forces with CEOs from more than a dozen global companies to sign new commitments that accelerate innovation in sustainable agriculture and recycling.   

    Collaboration and supply chain transparency are also core elements of Verizon's commitments to CSR and its mission to use its technology to solve some of the world's most pressing problems in education, healthcare, energy management and sustainability. Recognizing Ericsson with Verizon’s first Top Performance Award for Corporate Social Responsibility, the company acknowledges that working with responsible suppliers enhances competitiveness by improving the way it does business around the globe.   

    IKEA is also doing its part to prove that doing good is good business. From meatless meatballs to wind turbines and solar energy investment, the Swedish retailer putting its money and corporate citizenship on the line. “I’m convinced we are in the middle of this clean revolution right now, but I’m also not convinced we are doing it fast enough,” said IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard. “All the challenges are solvable with the solutions we have today, but we don’t have the right leadership, policies and priorities in place. Most political and business leaders are in a state of denial. Sustainability will be a decisive factor in terms of which business will be here in 30 years time. It’s also the future of business.”   

    In a similar vein, The Hershey Company, recently unveiled its evolved CSR framework—“Hershey Shared Goodness: Good Business, Better Life, Bright Future. Surpassing environmental targets and exceeding its year-one cocoa certification goal, Hershey is delivering on its belief that operating ethically and effectively is simply Good Business. “Our bold, aspirational goals have enabled our people and business to grow significantly,” asserted CEO John P. Bilbrey. “Hershey Shared Goodness directly reflects Milton Hershey’s founding principle of ‘doing well by doing good,’ and positions us for greater growth today and into the future.” 

    Coca-Cola is also doing good—this time, in China. The company is launching a socially responsible bottled-water brand that will fund projects to bring clean drinking water to schoolchildren in rural China, where people have to walk long distances to reach a water supply.  Since socially conscious brands are not as present in China compared to some other markets, Coke saw an opening to do something innovative. While Coke has initiatives in many markets to make soda and water bottles more sustainable, the Chun Yue brand is the first created specifically with the goal of charitably helping communities.

    With resource challenges ahead and many real world problems to be solved here and now, companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, IKEA, and Hershey are proving that doing good improves both consumer perception and business practices—and that, in turn, boosts profitability. Today's commitments, according to Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon, “are about creating real systems change from one end of the supply chain to the other—meaning how products are grown and made, how they're transported and sold, and how we touch the lives of people along the way." Now that’s what we call shared value.   

    To find out more about future-proofing, the positive link between sustainability and executive pay, how sustainability helps companies like HP through tough times, and how brands are actively engaging employees in sustainability efforts—or to get more details on the stories above—check out this month’s installment of Closing the Gap!

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