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April 2020 Social Value Insider

Now is the Time for Social Value Thinking

To secure our future, Canada needs to embrace social value thinking.

What is social value thinking? Social value thinking is alternative to the view

that financial returns are the singular way to create value. Social value thinking explores impact on people and environment and economy before an action is taken.

Social value thinking rejects the notion that actions that increase inequality, whether deliberate or secondary, are acceptable.  Social value thinking embraces environmental action while recognizing that saving the planet absolutely requires addressing inequality and a laser focus on societal well-being.

Social value thinking can and should cover the breadth of government procurement (all levels) as it works within industries such as construction, engineering, finance, pharmaceuticals and health care, let alone how we engage in housing, enable social enterprise and invest in government service delivery.  Social value thinking changes our view of the essential nature of arts & culture organizations, the value of sport, even international aid. It is a different way to view our economy and the complicated web of relationships within it, i.e. what is needed for us all to truly ‘be in this together.’

While social value thinking absolutely includes a large role for government purchasing, it doesn’t stop there.  There is a central role for the private sector in the form of a commitment to paying a living wage across the breadth of the supply chain, in step with an unwavering commitment to mitigate environmental impact.  It includes private sector support for government action in support of a universal basic income, removing all barriers to education and ensuring people can access the services that they need.  It also includes private sector and shareholder commitment to invest a reasonable percentage into strengthening communities surrounding and connect to the business.

Why? Well, one unignorable, purely self-interested argument unfolds quite simply:  it is increasingly evident that actions taken that a) increase inequality, b) reduce individual or community well-being and/or c) causes environmental harm (or d) all of the above) will be more expensive over time.  This is one reason for the calls to expand the definition of fiduciary duty, as many of the risks faced by business are ‘off balance sheet’ as they are deemed social or environmental in nature.

A second, more vital and compelling reason to embrace social value thinking reminds me of the work of Suzanne Peters in the early-mid 1990s, as president of the Policy Research Group.  She ran a series of cross Canadian dialogues and consultations encouraging people to describe the society they wanted – documenting results that illustrated many surface differences (age, region, language, religion, urban/rural, sexual orientation) yet compelling similarities (social justice, quality of life, education, health).  Social value thinking enables individuals, institutions and organizations to invest such that ‘rising tides, lift all boats’.  I believe that Canadians desire to represent the analogy of the ‘rising tide’.

As we make decisions that will shape Canada in this new COVID19 reality, now is the time for us all to embrace social value thinking.

SVI Conference September 28-29th, Toronto

Following the very successful #SVM2019 in Taiwan, Social Value Canada raised our hand to convene #SVM2020: People, Planet and Power .

The roster of Canadian and international speakers will impress! Topics such as • The Rise of Inequality as a Corporate Concern • Social Impact Measurement When Well-Being Really Matters • Reconciliation and the Social Value Agenda • The Future of Public Sector Procurement • Does Canada Need a Social Value Act? are sure to attract a thoughtful local, national and global audience.

All too often key decisions about economic growth, environmental impact and social policy are made using a limited economic concept of value, which fails to consider important effects on people and the environment. As the gap between rich and poor increases and the effects of climate change become more apparent, the need to change the way society accounts for value has never been more urgent.

Our vision is a world where decision making, ways of working and resource allocation are based on the Social Value International principles of accounting for value, leading to increased equality and reduced environmental degradation, therefore improving well-being for all. Social Value Matters conferences focus on the value created when stakeholder voices are included and heard.

This September, Social Value Matters ’20: People, Planet & Power will occur September 28-29, during Global Impact Week.  With events in Toronto (September 28-29), and around the world (September 30 – October 2), People, Planet & Power will launch in Toronto at a 2-day summit organized by Social Value Canada.  For the rest of Global Impact Week, networks around the world will hold roundtables, workshops, seminars and events that capture the conversations happening with their country or region of operation.  Click here to learn more about #SVM2020, Global Impact Week and to pre-register.

A Focus on How Business Makes Its Money

Businesses impact people’s lives in numerous ways. As President and Co-Founder of Shift, Caroline Rees is dedicated to advancing an agenda that places respect for people’s dignity at the core of how business gets it done.

“Our focus is on how business makes its money”

Caroline’s work has helped transform how we think about the role of the private sector with regards to human rights. Not only did she help develop the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which is the global framework that businesses, governments and civil society use as the authoritative standard on the matter; she also co-founded and leads a mission-driven organization that is dedicated to making the Principles the norm for how business gets done around the world.

For over a decade, Shift has partnered with Fortune 500 companies, national governments, financial institutions, prime sporting bodies, intergovernmental institutions and civil society organizations to advance this mission.

On any typical day, Shift works with businesses across a wide variety of sectors to help identify and address the negative impacts that their operations could be having on people’s rights. The issues vary -from forced labor in garment supply chains and land rights in agriculture, to displacement of communities in the extractives sector and privacy issues around technology, to name a few. Yet, the approach is the same: to ensure that all businesses –regardless of their size, sector or location- are able to assess human rights risks connected to their business, act to prevent and address them, and do so in a way that engages stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Shift also partners with other actors who influence business behavior, such as national governments seeking to put in place measures that influence business behavior; financial institutions and investors, who shape business practice by creating the right incentives for them to respect human rights; and other stakeholders of companies, including trade unions and civil society organizations.

As a mission-driven non-profit, Shift also combines its hands-on expertise with research and analysis to develop tools for public use, in order to raise the bar for all businesses with regards to human rights. This includes Shift’s dedicated tools to improve non-financial disclosure; and practical guidance and case studies to help companies grappling with specific issues -such as trade union rights or sustainability strategies. Its most recent venture is Valuing Respect: a collaborative platform to co-design better methods and indicators to evaluate companies’ human rights performance.

Caroline’s insights come from her career in the public and non-profit sectors. Prior to co-founding Shift, she was the Director of the Governance and Accountability Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Responsibility Initiative.  Caroline served as a British diplomat for fourteen years, with experience covering Iran, Slovakia, the European Union, the UN Security Council, and the UN Human Rights Council.

Caroline will be one of the keynote speakers at Social Value Matters ’20: People, Planet & Power, on September 28-29, 2020.

Finance for Impact!

On April 20, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), a subsidiary of Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity), introduced a Unity Guaranteed Investment Certificate (Unity GIC) offering clients with a stable, fixed-rate investment vehicle that delivers both financial and community benefit.

Read the newswire release through https://www.investmentexecutive.com/news/products/vcib-launches-gic-to-help-businesses-impacted-by-pandemic/ .

Stephanie Robertson

Stephanie Robertson

Chair Social Value Canada & Founder and CIO, SiMPACT Strategy Group