Business strategy does like its catchphrases: terms such as sustainability, good governance and, of course, shared value. Each has merit, but a recent dusting off of shared value is particularly relevant in today’s constrained and challenging economic and business environment. When Harvard Business School’s Profs Michael Porter and FSG consultancy co-founder Mark Kramer first coined the term — and the concept — of shared value back in 2006, the idea of business’s ability to drive positive change in society was certainly novel. There were a few examples dotted around, including Discovery’s Vitality programme, which first appeared in 1997, but it was largely a blank slate. Today we hear the likes of IBM, Google, GE and, at home, Absa touting the benefits of this approach. The notion that business can, somehow, positively impact social change while still making a profit is attractive for a number of reasons, not least of which is the sustainability inherent in a healthier, stronger, we...

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