“In contrast to politics, which claims that something is real, companies are dealing with reality and have to find solutions that work. Business is a source of innovation. Profit is the most powerful means to solve social problems”
Careful, though: CSV does not mean sharing wealth that has already been created, nor balancing the interests of various stakeholders, as it is a market-competitive strategy that creates long-term value for society and the business at the same time. In essence, it consists in meeting social needs which expand business opportunities, a virtuous cycle where innovation is the engine that increases social (and environmental) impact over time. And this innovation can only come from companies. In 2013, the non-profit sector invested 1.2 trillion dollars in social innovation and governments 3.1 trillion, while businesses invested 23.1 trillion. “The resources that capitalism can provide are far greater than the amount that comes from any other sector,” explains Kramer.
The father of CSV cited several real cases, such as the South African insurance company, Discovery, which offers policies to incentivise healthy living for its clients (with discounts for gym membership and the purchase of fruit and vegetables) and has obtained tangible benefits such as an increase in life expectancy of up to 10 years.
“Not all profit is equal,” warned Kramer. Profit made at society’s expense is counterproductive, while profit that brings shared value allows society to move forward and companies to grow faster. “The philosophy of shared value is the next competitive frontier of capitalism,” concluded the #EnelFocusOn guest, who identified Enel as a model to follow: “One of the most innovative Groups in the world, with a specific unit dedicated to innovation combined with sustainability.”
Sustainability doesn’t mean “just renewables”
Earlier at the event, Antonio Cammisecra, Head of Enel Global Renewable Energies and CEO of Enel Green Power, outlined the Group’s sustainability strategy. The world is living in an apparent paradox, for while we rightly indicate carbon neutrality as the solution to global warming, “more than one billion of the planet’s inhabitants live in the dark,” with no access to the electricity which would allow them to study, cook or work. The challenge for a utility company, therefore, is to increase the number of people with access to electricity while decarbonising the energy mix. Naturally, the use of clean energy is the master path to reducing CO2 emissions, but this alone is not enough, because “sustainability is broader than the use of renewables: creating shared value means creating value for the business and for all the stakeholders, starting from the communities where we are present.” For example, reducing the environmental impact to a minimum when building plants, improving management of resources (from water to waste) and positively contaminating the ecosystem. For Enel, sustainability is “embedded into the business.”
The CEO of Enel Green Power noted many of Enel’s best practices: from electrification projects in hospitals (Ethiopia) to the creation of solar energy lamps (South Africa), from projects of eco-carpentry (Peru and Mexico) to professional training for indigenous populations (Australia).
“Do you know why hydroelectric power stations were called “centrali” (“centres”) in Italy? Because the construction of a station sparked the development of a community: around the power plant, businesses, villages and families could prosper. It wasn’t called Creation of Shared Value then, but it was already being practiced 100-150 years ago”
Next stop Bucharest
The participants at Enel’s New York talk on the future included a group of influencers from four continents – journalists, bloggers, entrepreneurs and digital consultants. There was considerable participation in the live streaming, with the speakers answering many questions on social networks. The questions were all interesting: from the methods of measuring social impact to the interest of financial investors in creating shared value (“the majority of the capital on Wall Street is invested long term,” said Kramer), from the greenwashing communication strategies used by some companies to the pervading tendency of the media to focus on bad news while ignoring solutions to the problems.
The lively exchange of ideas, which also took place on the internet, demonstrated that the #EnelFocusOn format is now truly established, it works and continues to move forward. A platform of fully digital conversation that removes barriers between internal and external, in full accordance with the Open Power philosophy, a step into the future of innovation and technology.
In closing, Roberto Deambrogio, Enel Head of Europe and North Africa, and, from 1 October, the Group’s new Director of Communications, reminded attendees of the next appointment in Bucharest (Romania), where the theme will be the Internet of Things. Stay tuned.