Indeed, Covid 19 has demonstrated quite starkly how various business models are quite fragile. At the moment, most enterprises are struggling to protect their workers, ensure business continuity and make decisions in a period of economic uncertainty. This is no easy task, however it provides businesses and other institutions an opportunity to re-examine their purpose and even more importantly its alignment in addressing some of the biggest challenges our societies face today.
How can a company leverage on its unique strengths to serve those most affected by the crisis?
For large organizations, a shared value approach would be to offer services or products that can serve those hardest hit by the crisis e.g. 3M’s increased production of hand sanitizers, masks and respiratory equipment or Uber’s partnerships with restaurants and other food providers to ensure food is delivered seamlessly to those healthcare workers working around the clock.
When it comes to employees, there are some companies that are taking a different approach. Take for example, Walmart providing two weeks pay for full and part time employees diagnosed with Covid19. Or Lyft which is offering financial assistance to employees who get diagnosed with Covid 19.
Creating shared value is about thinking through what core competencies an organization has and then aligning those to dealing with a recurrent social challenge or set of challenges. Ultimately what a sustainable business must do is to look critically at the challenges everyday ‘man or woman’ face e.g. issues to do with affordable housing, education, access to healthy, affordable food, etc. and how they can leverage their business model to address some of these core challenges. Another crisis I fear going forward could be the effects caused by climate change in the future-businesses should start thinking about tailoring solutions for that one.
Ultimately what business’ must do is to forecast their environment as much as possible taking note of changes in trends and future crises that are likely to occur and then think through how they can address those issues from a strategic perspective.
Finally, there is not an easy way of defining purpose and creating shared value especially when it comes to smaller businesses that are financially constrained. However, with some innovation and collaboration it is possible.