Shared value and social innovation

With the launch of another round of training for Shared Value, CSR Asia is pioneering a new approach to running a successful business that produces profits whilst also bringing about societal change through social innovation. Join us to learn about how your organization can be part of the solution to meeting social needs through innovative new approaches to doing business.

The shared value approach emphasizes the creation of social innovations that meet social needs through creating new solutions, relationships, collaborations and collective arrangements. Such approaches can includes ideas, concepts, strategies, products, services, new organisations and technologies that meet social needs. Social innovations can be designed to address a wide range needs including community developmenthealth, poverty, human rights, education, environmental protection and the empowerment of vulnerable people. They are innovations which have a social purpose and deliver solutions to meet social needs in a way that is measurable.

Definitions of social innovation abound and it is easy to become entangled in a debate over its exact meaning. What is important is that social needs are met in new and innovative ways, creating solutions to problems that traditional approaches failed to do. Social innovation thus recognises that the social and environmental problems that exist today are often the result of a failed approach to try to deal with them in the past.

Shared value stresses the creation, development, adoption and integration of new concepts and practices that address important needs and resolve existing social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges through social innovation. Social innovations come from individuals, groups or organizations, and can take place in the for-profit, non-profit and public sectors. Typically, they are happening in the spaces between these three sectors as innovators recognise the importance of partnerships and new forms of collaboration.

Successful social innovators will willingly operate across the boundaries of different sectors, recognising that innovation will often thrive when different experiences and skills are brought together to tackle a clearly identified social need. This means creating new alliances between different types of organisations in order to co-create solutions to social and environmental challenges. When successful and self sustaining, innovations can be replicated and grow to scale until needs are fully addressed.

Social innovation is often linked closely to concepts such as social entrepreneurship, social enterprises and impact investing where there is often a deliberate trade-off between financial and social returns. Yet, there is increasing interest in the role of the private sector in being innovators and creating profits whilst meeting social needs with no such reduction in such financial returns. This is the concept of shared value which argues that companies can actually increase their competitiveness through leveraging their assets and expertise in addressing a social need.

For the private sector therefore, social innovation is about putting innovative new products, services, systems, strategies and collaborations in place that are economically viable (without the need for a trade-off), which address our remaining social and environmental challenges. The argument is that companies can enhance their role in society, by contributing assets and skills to communities and in so doing increase competitiveness, protect shareholder returns, and enhance their social licence to operate through building trust from customers and other stakeholders. The shared value approach forces companies to think about social innovations that create more value for themselves, their shareholders and the societies in which they operate.

Such an approach based on embedding social innovation into the business is a considerable departure from traditional philanthropy and demonstrates a stronger link between core business and the responsibility of the company. Rather than giving away value already created (philanthropy) it finds new ways of creating additional value for both the business and society. This approach requires a much deeper engagement across the company involving the commitment from the most senior managers in the organisation. Social innovation linked to a shared value philosophy has much to offer companies that want to make a difference and in a world where trust in business has been eroded over the last decade. It will become an important element in long term survival.

However, many recognise that social innovation succeeds best when done in partnership others. Companies do not operate in a vacuum, but as part of a system including peer companies, non-governmental organisations, customers, investors and policy-makers. The world’s remaining challenges are so complex and difficult that no company should be under any illusion that they can do it on their own. Moreover, social innovation and shared value will be important elements in an emerging revolution around how companies do business and how they measure success.

The starting point for social innovation in any business is the identification of a need that is not being met and some idea of creating change, using the assets of expertise of the company, so that it can be met. New innovations may be based on new technology, new organisational forms, new knowledge and better understanding of the root causes of social needs. Yet, for social innovation to deliver results there will have to be a degree of experimentation, since few solutions emerge fully formed. For a business to be successful innovators they will have to try things out, and then adjust them in the light of experience. Experimenting plays a vital role in all kinds of innovation, involving trial and error, creativity, hunches and guesses.

But if a solution can be found to meeting social needs and that in turn provides for a business opportunity it will have longevity. What business would not want to increase its own profits by increasing its ability to address social needs? Thus the shared value model allows us to take important social innovations and make them scalable. The social innovation process can blossom through organic growth, an ambitious business plan, replication, adaptation or even franchising. However, taking a good idea to scale will require a clear strategy and coherent vision, combined with the ability to use the assets and expertise that the business has to offer. Businesses will have to put much more emphasis on working together and in partnership with other stakeholders.

Dates for your diary:

The Shared Value 101 workshops are designed for businesses that want a more in depth understanding of Shared Value principles, and how they can be integrated into business. The workshop aims to continue to strengthen understanding of Shared Value and dispel misconceptions and misinterpretations. The workshops are designed to outline the principles of Shared Value, demonstrate best practice and allow participants to start thinking about their own project design. An emphasis is put on ways in which businesses can contribute to social innovations needed to tackle many of the challenges that remain in Hong Kong.

– Monday 8 October
– Thursday 11 October
– Friday 2 November
– Tuesday 13 November (at Hong Kong Science and Technology Park)
Time: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Venue: Venue details will be sent to you upon registration. Other than the workshop on Tuesday 13 November, all other workshops will be hosted on the Hong Kong Island.
Workshop Facilitator: Richard Welford, Chairman, CSR Asia
Agenda and other details: Click here


The Shared Value Implementation and Impact Measurement workshops target companies that already understand Shared Value and have started identifying possibilities in their operations or have started to implement a Shared Value project. With an aim to increase the success rate and impact of the Shared Value projects that are being created, these workshops will work with participants to troubleshoot common issues during implementation and give guidance on impact measurement and communicating progress and achievements. Participants will be able to share their practical questions and their cases for discussion. Shared Value opportunities in some pressing social topics will also be presented for participants to explore.

– Friday 9 November
– Wednesday 21 November
Time: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Venue: Venue details will be sent to you upon registration.
Workshop Facilitator: Richard Welford, Chairman, CSR Asia
Agenda and other details: Click here


Round two: Other capacity building activities
CSR Asia will also run a series of half-day immersion visits and provide one-on-one coaching sessions to guide individual companies in developing their Shared Value Projects.

The half-day immersion visits give companies insights into social and environmental needs and solutions while featuring potential partners to collaborate with. The themed visits would include:

  • Age-friendly city
  • Zero-waste lifestyles
  • Equal opportunities and diversity in workplaces
  • Closing Hong Kong’s education gaps
  • Stress and mental health
  • Empowering low-income families

The coaching sessions aim to support companies that are ready to develop a Shared Value initiative or strategy with good potentials but require tailor-made and one-on-one support to kick start or overcome some barriers. Selected companies will be coached to further develop their plans through training, market research, stakeholder engagement and partnership building.

Leave your contact information here if you wish to receive updates about the visits and one-on-one coaching. Stay tuned for more details of the activities in early October.

Feel free to contact [email protected] for inquiries.