As practitioners in the CSR field, our team is always looking for the “next good book” that can add value to our work. One of the recent additions to our office collection is Creating Social Value: A Guide for Leaders and Change Makers, by Cheryl Kiser and Deborah Leipziger — the first guide for practitioners and student text book of its kind that focuses on social value creation. By telling the story of innovative leaders and change makers within companies, Kiser and Leipziger examine how an organization can create social value while simultaneously driving profits. At Cause Consulting, we are energized and excited about the new piece of curriculum that will continue to help shape the field and educate new professionals. The text is an essential read for all CSR practitioners and want-to-be practitioners.
Last month we had the opportunity to sit down with co-author Deborah Leipziger, a Senior Fellow at the Lewis Institute at Babson and an Adjunct Faculty member at the Simmons School of Management. Deborah and her co-author, Cheryl Kiser, based the book’s content on experiences and conversations that occurred during a series of MBA classes at Babson College’s Social Innovation Lab. An ‘intrepreneur’ came in each week to the class to discuss the journey and challenges of creating social innovation within their organization. Students interacted with them, asked questions, and at times played the role of consultants. The dialogues and lessons learned were captured in the book, which as Deborah says is “very much the personal journeys of these people, the characteristics that make them leaders and the way in which they are activating and creating change.”
As expected, we found that the focus areas that emerged in the book are ones that closely intersect with our day-to-day work. Here are some of the themes:
1. Evolution of Social Value Creation
When looking at the evolution of companies towards Social Value Creation, it’s best to visualize a pyramid. At the bottom lies Corporate Social Responsibility, defined in the book as compliance with laws and the broad socially responsible actions taken by a company. In the middle is Sustainability, a general term that encompasses environmental and social initiatives such as energy efficiency, employee green teams, and community engagement. At the top of the pyramid, or the peak, lies Social Value Creation. This peak is where a company can create value for society directly through their business practice by leveraging their systems, services, products, language and design. The book uses the journeys, challenges, and success stories of leaders to illustrate how companies must re-imagine the purpose of their business at the top of the pyramid—at Social Value Creation.
2. Leadership and ‘Intraprenuership’ for Social Innovation
One leader that particularly stood out to Deborah was Kevin Thompson, the Market Development Executive at IBM. Inspired by his previous experience in the Peace Corps, Thompson developed an internal branch to promote leadership and team-building by sending cohorts of employees out worldwide on volunteering projects that addressed various business and societal challenges. Despite facing initial skepticism, IBM’s internal Peace Corps, called Corporate Service Corps, is currently their most popular employee program. It also became a very profitable venture as it created contracts in emerging markets IBM hadn’t thought of before. The program has since been emulated by many other companies as a strategy to help develop employee leadership skills as well as open up a world of new business.
3. Lexicon of Social Change and Innovation
One of the most exciting aspects in developing the book for Deborah was exploring a new lexicon and the impact language has on employee engagement and external communication. She explains how a level of activation and inspiration is created for internal and external stakeholders by using existing words in new contexts. For example Dave Stangis, Vice President of Public Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility at Campbell Soup Company and President of Campbell Soup Foundation, has adopted motivational language and phrases such as “destination goals.” The term changes the direction and thinking of his organization and creates a new context for developing the company’s long-term vision.
4. Design and Re-design To Create Social Value
When asked what she wants readers to take away from the book, Deborah talked about the element of design. Most companies, especially those without physical products, don’t necessarily think about this component. However, the thought process that goes into design can help them critically examine everything they are doing from the simple design of a product to the design of a store, a supply chain, or the way companies sell things. As an example, the book discusses Eric Hudson, Founder and CEO of Preserve, a company that began producing ‘green products’ with recycled plastic at a time when others were still using wood. Hudson used predictive thinking to re-design the toothbrush to be a more effective product and utilized innovative recycled materials. Preserve’s initial goal to reduce waste transformed into a revolution for the recycled plastics industry by helping create a new market.
5. Forward Thinking and Next Steps in Creating Social Value
In our final minutes with Deborah we discussed the future of the landscape for social value creation and how each of the following stakeholders can continue to shape it:
must be engaged. Deborah and her colleagues have discovered that the new generation of business students are already social entrepreneurs and are inspired by these leaders to pursue their own endeavors. The focus is now on best practices for teaching the material and text to continue engagement.
must remain determined and continue to innovate. Deborah stressed that leaders cannot become complacent and bask in their success, but rather keep pushing and ask: where else do we need to go? As the field rapidly changes, social entrepreneurs are forced to continually look at new structures, models, language, design and more to keep innovating.
must always be able to adapt and learn. While many in the industry still refer to “Corporate Social Responsibility” and “Sustainability” within the Social Value Creation pyramid, there is a rapid shift toward the top of the pyramid and Social Value Creation. We continue to look at business models in new ways to follow the shift and fully encompass social innovation.
Our team is excited about the themes this books discusses and how we can continue to be a part of the thread in creating social value for our clients. Driving change has always been at our core and Creating Social Value: A Guide For Leaders and Change Makers helps move this needle by teaching business leaders how to drive change from within.
To order a copy please visit Greenleaf Publishing.