Unpacking the Myth of ‘Shared Value’

The past decade has led to an explosion in tri-sector interaction frame-works in popular business literature with leading American Policy Academic Joseph Nye exalting business leaders to re-frame their capabilities as a ‘Tri-Sector Athlete’; by adapting  the requisite tools required for each sector to maximize shared value.  The Private Sector under the wider conceptual rubric of Corporate Citizenship is working hand in hand with Philanthropic Foundations plus Global NGO’s and diffused citizen grassroots organizations to create an illusion of sensible corporate governance. Some drinking water here, some solar panels there is the current regime of tokenism.  Social Development Professionals who work in corporate funded foundations and think tanks often complain of being sidelined by the marketing team who hijack whatever good can be achieved in a transnational shareholder capitalism context with green washing the naïve consumers. A serious empirical study needs to be done of how effective the rhetoric about ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ in the past decade has really been. The black box of management fluff needs to be deconstructed in order to understand whether the ‘real’ shareholders are being hoodwinked in believing thin air rather than real meat.

How real is the ‘Shared Value’ for the citizen sector? Is the value for the 3rd sector only in terms of paying the flight tickets and hotel costs of top honchos of Green peace?  Let’s have some researcher do some Randomized Control Trials in a Monitoring & Evaluation Framework to know its efficacy.

As of now Shared Value has worked for Financial Institutions, FMCG Majors and Retail Chains to expand rural market share and procuring new targets (Grameen Group in Bangladesh has synergistic operating model- microfinance to dairy to telecom and rural renewable energy). I do not see how the power dynamics will work for the underfunded and undermanned non-profit in West Papua where the voices of marginalised communities are erased and co-opted in the name of Development for all in neoliberal governance architecture. Who is this ‘All’ after all?.

In order to operationalize this rather normative argument, let the corporations begin by making their current CSR initiatives more impactful by walking the talk, after all shared value should not be a footnote in its annual sustainability report, right?


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