Shared Value: The Potential for Sustainable Success

A review of the new book Value² by Sabine Denis, Business & Society Belgium
Shared Value: The Potential for Sustainable Success
Publ. date 17 Mar 2014
“Value2: Entrepreneurship for society: profit for sustainable welfare" is the title of the new book by Sabine Denis, General Manager of Business and Society Belgium. The book describes in detail the concept of shared value and the link between economic activity and sustainable welfare in society, based on no less than thirty in-depth interviews about sustainability with the captains of industry. On February 17th Sabine Denis presented her new work in Brussels, Belgium.

It is time for a radical change of direction 

In a changing world, companies should look for the role they can play in a changing society. Today societal challenges such as social inequality, mobility, deprivation and environmental problems are not considered to be valuable national or international markets at all. And this is where businesses in general still lack behind.

A call for active participation and involvement 

Denis advocates in her book a new, more active interpretation of sustainability, in such a way that companies do no longer behave as 'responsible' citizens, but also actively participate. "CSR today is too marginal, too low in ambitions and there are no strings attached whatsoever," says Denis. She argues that CSR is often still limited to a defensive reaction, using dilemmas as a starting point. In addition, CSR puts too much emphasis on business management and rather less on business strategy. The result is a mosaic of sustainable initiatives. Therefore, managers perceive sustainability often as a cost, a burden, a liability and forget to recognize the potential for growth, differentiation and success. “Companies need to focus on those areas that optimally contribute to society and lead to competitive advantages simultaneously,” explains Denis. This social value is described by strategy gurus Michael Porter and Mark Kramer as ‘Shared value’.

Umicore sets the example 

A perfect example of creating shared value is Umicore. Whereas it used to extract metals from the earth, nowadays it recovers them from the discards of the industrial economy: electronic waste, catalytic converters, rechargeable batteries, and residues from copper and zinc smelters. Raw material scarcity forms the core of Umicore’s business model: scarcity is Umicore’s most valuable market nationally and internationally. In the book Marc Grynberg, Chief Executive Officer at Umicore, explains: “The depletion of raw materials jeopardizes future technology. As these raw materials can be recycled over and over again without any physical or chemical loss, they are the perfect components for sustainable materials. And recycling makes sure that these raw materials will be available. Now and in the future.”

Delhaize: creating shared value within the fishery sector

Overfishing is, in addition to global warming, the biggest threat to marine life. In order to provide the next generation with a wide range of fresh fish, Delhaize decided to offer 100% sustainable fish by 2012. This means that all endangered species, based on the red list of the WWF, were taken from the shelves. Red tuna, eel and Nile perch were removed from the assortment. Delhaize activated its suppliers in order to achieve this goal by setting criteria that avoid overfishing. These criteria include for instance capturing fish only from sufficient fish populations, respecting the size of the fish and limiting by-catch.

How can you create shared value from sustainability? 

GLOBE-US, a process tool based on the Business Model Generation-approach of Osterwalder and Pigneur, embraces new developments in sustainability such as creating shared value. If you are interested to know how GLOBE-US could help your company with creating shared value, please contact Josée van der Hoek, Founding Partner, at or +31 6 28 02 18 80.

About Josée van der Hoek

Experienced strategic issues management specialist with expertise in strategy development, ESG benchmarking, ESG Equity Stories and food.

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