Corporate social responsibility is an established concept, but a new generation of consumers is raising the bar. A new concept called creating shared value calls on companies to think beyond charitable donations and recycling.
When the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) entered the mainstream business pages in the 1960s, it quickly grew to include environmental sustainability. This is still the mainstay of many CSR initiatives —making recyclable products, using recycled materials, and reducing natural resource use. CSR today has grown to include the idea of developing products that have a positive social impact.
The term creating shared value, which was coined by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer in this 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review, takes these measures a step further. According to the Shared Value Initiative, it starts with “reconceiving products and markets in ways that meet customers needs while also contributing to society.” In other words, it encourages companies to take a broader view of what they do, and how their products can be used.
For Brent Claxton, Chief Product Officer at ClearPicture, that brings new opportunities in the technology sector to consider social implications in product development.
“[A product] doesn’t need to be an enterprise tool, it can also be used by the public, for the public good,” says Claxton.
The trend toward CSR and creating shared value is not diminishing. This 2014 study by Nielsen, found that consumers are making choices that are heavily influenced by brands with a social purpose. In their research, 55 per cent of respondents said they will pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact—up from 50 per cent in 2012 and 45 per cent in 2011.
For Claxton, this trend presents an opportunity to engage with customers in the process. It’s also a natural fit with the minimum viable product approach—a method of product development where the first launch has only the core features that are needed to deploy it, and that engages customers in establishing the direction that a product takes going forward.
“Given the opportunity, people will find very innovative ways to use products,” says Claxton. “By getting this feedback, we learn what tools people can use, which tools have an impact, and how they can be useful to society.”
Done well, this can generate powerful results for businesses, and for consumers.