This document summarises the findings from a foresight programme that identified the nature of future social
needs and considered how organisations could address these.
Undertaken via a combination of desk research, one-on-one interviews, discussion forums and major
workshops held on three continents, this programme explored multiple perspectives with experts and informed
people from over 100 different organisations.
The insights were gained as part of a wider project for Barclays Bank plc. which has been building on its current
Citizenship platform and looking ahead to shifts and options for change to prepare for the world in 2020.
This summary is being shared directly with those who participated in the discussions as a record of the
dialogue. In addition, it is also being made available to interested parties for continued discussion and feedback.
The approach taken for this project was based on that adopted for the global Future Agenda programme – the
world’s largest open foresight project to date.
• Starting with informed perspectives gleaned from research and initial interviews, a range of assumptions and
hypotheses were developed and discussed within the core team.
• A series of group discussions were then used to test thinking and gain new perspectives from experts across
a number of areas – from academics, philosophers and ethnographers and leaders of social enterprises to
economists and businesses.
• Revised perspectives were then taken into three major workshops in Johannesburg, London and New York
where a wider group of informed people from multiple organisations challenged and built upon each others’
views to provide a richer, deeper view of the future of the socially valued organisation.
This document is a synthesis of what we heard and learned from these discussions.
Society today faces challenges that will become more intense over the coming years. The need for change
is broadly acknowledged and we are now entering a period of transition that will involve making hard choices
requiring strong leadership and collaboration.
To achieve lasting inclusive growth, many now believe that business and society should align around a wider
agenda, adopting a broader definition of success, in order to achieve a better balance between short and long
There are uncertainties concerning this, such as who will lead and how, but there is also a general consensus
that commercial organisations have the potential to take a lead in establishing a future that benefits wider
society. To achieve this, tough decisions need to be made, a number of which may well lead to significant
change in the systems within which many currently operate.
The Global Context
1. Uncertainties and Scenarios
The World Today
2. Progress, Transitions and Transformation
The World Tomorrow
3. Key Challenges and New Approaches
Socially Valued Organisations
4. Context and Emerging Characteristics
The Socially Valued Organisation in 2020
5. Being Part of the Change
Implications for Organisations
6. Ten Questions
Appendix sources and resources
32 Characteristics of Socially Valued Organisations
Sources and Resources
This synthesis is comprised of six topics
The Global Context
Uncertainties and Scenarios1
As organisations look to the future, dealing with uncertainty is a common challenge. As you look beyond short-term trends
into events 5 to 10 years out, issues become increasingly less certain. Many experts seeking to prioritise one future over
another talk about possibility and probability and often differentiate the plausible from the possible.
While some may wish to predict the future, most recognise that this is almost impossible and that, at best, we can only
anticipate what may happen. As such, academics and business organisations have explored different approaches that seek
to provide plausible stories about alternative futures based on what we see today and how trends and uncertainties may
combine over coming years to shape tomorrow.
Initiated in the 1950s by the RAND Corporation and developed during the 1970s by the likes of Shell and GE, scenario
thinking has gained significant credibility as a mechanism for helping to challenge our assumptions and inform our decisions.
Many companies see that scenarios provide a significant benefit in extending corporate perspectives and so adopt this
approach as a core element in their strategy processes. Scenarios provide a way of exploring uncertainties that enables us
to consider the implications for ourselves and the organisations we work for.
Dealing with an uncertain future
In making sense of future uncertainties, scenarios are a well-regarded
way to help us to explore the potential implications of different futures and
so enable us to make better decisions
In order to make sense of how the world is changing, it is important to explore a range of different uncertainties so that we
can map a credible spectrum of alternative views. The Future Agenda programme and additional research undertaken by the
project team identified a number of major insights which are clearly visible and which can be considered as drivers of future
macro change. Two key uncertainties stand out as being highly relevant to how society will grow and prosper in the future.
• Firstly, there is uncertainty around the definition of growth. Questions are being asked around whether we should continue
to focus on a narrow definition of growth measured mainly in terms of short-term economics in the belief that this will
deliver success in the longer term or should we define growth in broader terms and aim to achieve a more even balance
between economic, societal and environmental needs.
• Secondly, as organisations seek to address a number of significant challenges, there is uncertainty around the associated
goal setting. Can global agreement on setting shared targets be achieved or will diffusion of power lead to a fragmentation
of rules and targets and lack of alignment on priorities?
Exploring these two uncertainties helps us to build alternative views of the future.
Looking ahead many see two key uncertainties
As organisations explore emerging drivers of global change and consider
how they can be addressed, fundamental questions are being raised about
the nature of future growth and how macro goals will be set and agreed
How goals are set
Global Collaboration Fragmented and Local
Definition of growth
Using the two uncertainties, the definition of growth and goal setting, as the axes we have developed a matrix with four
possible combinations. We can use this to build scenarios that describe each possible future and to explore the implications
for business and other stakeholders.
• In the top left quadrant we see a world in which there is global collaboration around goal setting but growth is measured
largely as short-term economic impact,
• In the top right quadrant we see a world with global collaboration around goal setting and a broader and longer-term view
• In the bottom left quadrant we see a world with fragmented goal setting, with little alignment on priorities that individually
seek short-term economic growth, and
• In the bottom right quadrant we see a world with different bodies taking individual views on goals but all seeking to take a
broader and longer-term view of growth.
Collectively these four alternative views enable us to map a broad landscape of possible futures within which the actual
future most likely lies. While we cannot choose one as all are plausible, we can prepare ourselves for the future by
considering how each of these will impact us and how well prepared we are to deliver success in each.
Alternative views of the future
An associated scenarios framework explores the key uncertainties about
the future of the global economy – how goals are set and how growth is
defined. It provides four alternative views of the future
BroadNarrow Definition of Growth
Fragmented and Local
Considering the implications of addressing emerging challenges, the four different scenarios can be described as:
• A world dominated by powerful elites who seek to protect the status quo and to continue to achieve economic growth
• A world of global alignment and collaboration focused on long-term, global goals and the need to achieve sustainable
National Self Interest
• A world of diffused power with localized self-interest the priority. A focus on economic growth and national resource
security delays the addressing of global societal stresses.
• An interconnected world where change is pursued through collective action and is focused on addressing the local impact
of societal and environmental stresses
In each of these four alternative futures, the objective of addressing societal challenges is the same but the approaches
taken by organisations will shift to adapt to the prevailing conditions. While some may choose one of these futures as their
preferred course, they also need to be prepared to deliver success in the other worlds described by these scenarios.
2020 global scenarios
These scenarios provide four equally plausible but different contexts within
which organisations may have to operate in order to help to successfully
address the challenges that society faces and deliver value to society
BroadNarrow Definition of Growth
Fragmented and Local
The World Today
Progress, Transitions and Transformation2
Globally, on average, we have never been so healthy, wealthy and educated. Although there have been long-term
improvements in these and other areas, it is over the past few decades that progress has really started to build momentum.
This has happened partly because advances in technology, public health and governance have all aligned, and partly
because there has been shared understanding of what the big issues are and how to address them.
As the IMF has highlighted, the 13 years since the Millennium have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history:
there are half a billion fewer people living below an international poverty line of $1.25 a day. In addition, child death rates have
fallen by more than 30%, with about three million more childrens’ lives saved each year compared to 2000. Deaths from
malaria have fallen by one quarter in the same period.
According to the WHO, the global average life expectancy is now over 70, up 10 years since 1970. Equally, since 1990,
clean water has been provided to 2bn more people, the number of children educated to secondary level has risen from
210m to 485m and average fertility rates have been brought down from 3.3 to 2.5 births per woman. While there are some
regions doing better than others, overall the world is making progress.
We have already made significant progress on some big challenges
In response to the UN Millennium Development Goals, millions have
been raised out of poverty, child death rates have fallen steadily and the
devastating impact of diseases such as malaria have been reduced
Although we have achieved much, there is still a long way to go to make the world a place of equal opportunity.
For example, according to the UN:
• Life expectancy in Sub Saharan Africa is currently 55 years compared to 75 years in China and 79 years in the
• 11 per-cent of the world’s population still lacks access to safe water and around 2.5bn still lack access to basic sanitation.
• An estimated 865 million women around the world are being held back and face discrimination at birth, on the school
bench and in the boardroom.
• Globally, 17% children under the age of 5 are underweight, 7% are overweight and 25% are stunted.
• 123 million youth (aged between 15 and 24) still lack basic reading skills and only 2 out of 130 countries have achieved
gender parity at primary level education.
Looking forward; by 2020, for the first time ever, there will be more people aged over 65 than children under five, by 2030,
almost half of the world’s population will live in regions of high water stress or shortage and one third of the world’s urban
population will live in unplanned slums, ghettos and townships.
While we have made evident progress in recent years, with more people on the planet consuming more resources we are
stressing many systems beyond their natural capacity for replenishment.
However there is still much to be done
Many agree that with rising populations and increasing resource constraints,
we face growing societal and environmental challenges that are putting
increasing pressure on the world as a whole
At the same time, the global centre of gravity and the locus of control of economic influence are both moving. Some of
these changes, such as the general shift of wealth to Asia, are seen by some as a natural rebalancing to align with long-term
trends, however the manner in which wealth, both globally and within regions, is being created and distributed is causing
increased concern. For example:
• In 2013, for the first time, less than 50% of all economic activity came from advanced economies.
• While Asia’s share of world output has grown from 7.6% to 26% since 1980, over the same period Africa’s share has
• Total African National Debt is now $261bn and yet just 5 US companies collectively hold over $350bn in cash
• 8% of people have 50% of the world’s income with the richest 85 people in the world owning the same as the bottom half
of the total global population.
• The GINI-coefficient, the measure of inequality in society, continues to rise almost everywhere with the gap between the
rich and the poor increasing.
• The average income ratio between the richest and poorest 10% in OECD Countries is 9:1 and in the US the figure is 14:1.
• Globally, with around 73m unemployed, the youth unemployment rate is 12.6% but in many regions including much of
North Africa and the Middle East it is as high as 30% and in Greece and Spain it is well over 50%.
• By 2020, the world needs another 600m new jobs just to keep employment rates at current levels. 100m of these are
required in Africa alone.
Today the global economy is also changing and under stress
The centres of economic power are shifting to cities, global corporations
and Asia. Add in the fallout from the financial crisis in the West and we see
rising inequality in most regions – the rich / poor gap is increasing
In a recent lecture on the future of the global economy, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, highlighted that
the world is currently experiencing two megatrends – an increasingly integrated and interconnected world and a diffusion of
power leading to greater fragmentation of decision making. Together these create an apparent paradox - the tendency for
the world to grow further apart, even as it draws closer together.
• We are in a world moving from the industrial age to the hyper-connected digital age with globally integrated supply chains.
• Financial links between countries have grown sharply and, in the two decades before the 2008 crisis, international bank
lending, as a share of world GDP, rose by 250%.
• 3 billion people are now connected to each other on the Internet and over three million emails are sent every second.
• There are almost as many mobile devices as people on the planet with the fastest growing rates of mobile penetration
being in Africa and Asia.
• 12 multinational corporations now sit among the world’s top 100 economic bodies in terms of economic size.
• 31 cities are on that list of the top 100. By 2030, about 60 per-cent of the world’s population will live in cities.
• There are now nearly 200 countries in the world compared to 65 at the start of the First World War.
• Fifty years ago, the emerging markets and developing economies accounted for about a quarter of world GDP. Today, it is
half, and rising rapidly - very likely to two-thirds within the next decade.
• In just 20 years, the number of non-government organisations associated with the United Nations rose from 700 to nearly 4000.
• There is a shift of global power from west to east and, to a lesser extent, from north to south.
With this paradox between interconnected and fragmentation there is also an increased blurring of responsibility between
governments, business and civil society.
We face a paradox of interconnection and fragmentation
We live in a world that is more interconnected than ever before but is also
becoming increasingly fragmented leading to a need for greater
collaboration and leadership across different parts of society
The World Tomorrow
Key Challenges and New Approaches3
Globally many see the world facing three big challenges that will require us to make difficult choices, involve us in making
difficult trade-offs and need new levels of leadership and collaboration if they are to be addressed:
Increased Environmental Stresses
• In an increasingly resource constrained world, organisations recognise the planetary stresses and seek to better adapt to the
implications of climate change: Protecting the wider ecosystem becomes a priority.
Increased Societal Stresses
• Continued urbanisation and rising migration highlight the widening gap between rich and poor in many communities, while
ageing populations and rising youth unemployment add extra demographic pressures.
A Changing Business Environment
• A more connected, networked economy, the needs of new middle class consumers and regulatory shifts combine with the
impact of personal and country debt to blur the boundaries of organisations and society
At the same time, and cutting across all three of these areas, in many regions there is a decrease in trust in the traditional
institutions of leadership – religion, the state and large business. Many, and especially the young, are disillusioned with today’s
political and business leaders and are looking for new networks to trust and set a more positive direction for the future.
Looking forward to 2020, many agree that society will be facing a number
of issues that can be summarised by three areas of probable systemic
stress for the environment, for society and for business
A Changing Business
Although some of the targets have not yet been fully met, there is widespread recognition of the success of the
original UN Millennium Development Goals in helping to align actions for progress for international development
around 8 key topics. Moving forward, as the scale of new challenges becomes apparent, many are discussing not
only what the new development goals should be for post-2015 but also the level of change required.
While extensive consultation is underway on what global goals should be added around such issues as energy,
employment, governance and long-term finance, many are also focusing on the shifts needed to transform the way to
Specific areas of focus include:
• Removing the economic, racial or regional barriers that hold people back,
• Ending inequality of opportunity so that all have a fair chance of progress,
• Bringing together social, economic and environmental issues in a coherent, effective, and sustainable way, and
• Inspiring a new generation to believe that a better world is within its reach, and to act accordingly.
These goals and shifts are building on previous successes and seeking to be bolder, bigger and still more challenging
for the next decade.
Addressing these challenges will require significant change
As acceptance of the scale of the challenges we face builds, there is
growing global recognition of the need for a collective, transformational shift
to achieve any real progress: for many, business as usual is not an option
Proposed UN Post 2015 Development Goals
ILLUSTRATIVE GOALS AND TARGETS
Although there are many issues for companies on the horizon, a good number are happy with the status quo and
many benefit from it. And yet, around the world, there are increasingly vocal groups and individuals calling for a
change in how large companies operate. Several organisations are already taking steps to address this.
Different approaches to more appropriate corporate governance and more aligned behaviours are being suggested,
debated and even piloted around the world. Notable amongst these are:
• Clarifying the legal obligation for companies to maximize shareholder value,
• Adopting the principles of B-Corp to aid a return to focusing on stakeholders,
• Developing and applying the philosophy of creating shared value,
• Stopping quarterly reporting as a means of reducing short-term focus and
• The end of universal banking to decouple investment banks from retail institutions.
Led by CEO’s of major multi-national companies including Apple, Nestlé and Unilever, two key strands - that the
purpose of an organisation should be about more than just short-term financial gains and the adoption of a
longer-term focus - are gradually gaining traction across a broadening community.
More people are questioning the role of global organisations
As a result people are openly asking about the balance between ‘value’
and ‘values’ alongside the role and purpose of some of the larger
organisations in creating value for society
If we are to collectively address some of the systemic shocks on the horizon and fundamentally change many of the
paradigms that are now been challenged, far greater and deeper levels of collaboration that have been previously
experienced will need to occur. Previously corporate partnerships have largely been one-to-one arrangements
between two parties or, at best, multi-organisation collaborations within an industrial sector. However, issues such as
adapting to climate change, or “weird weather”; managing the balance of supply and demand to avoid both physical
and economic water stress; developing lower cost healthcare protocols that don’t bankrupt social systems; and
managing the balance of power and influence in an increasingly multi-polar world will all require massive cross-sector
and cross-border cooperation.
Some see the need for companies, governments and wider society to align around the key priorities. They need to
pool their resources, better leverage available capital and focus more on common forms of intellectual property that
accelerate rather than constrain knowledge sharing. Certainly for many, the whole notion of large-scale collaboration
with shared mutual interests at the fore is providing the opportunity for a radical step-change to occur. Moreover, in
order to motivate and stimulate the change that is needed, few doubt the requirement for leaders to emerge who are
able to set clear visions and associated goals and communicate effectively with a broad community.
Transformation requires new forms of collaboration
Transforming the global economy will require more effective collaboration
between government, business and civil society in ways appropriate for
the 21st century – sharing resources, capital and intellectual property
Underpinning significant change and shifting behaviours are both closely aligned to what we seek to measure.
Many argue that tackling some of the world’s big challenges cannot be achieved successfully without a corresponding
modification in the standards by which organisations assess and track performance and, hence, by which they report
results to the outside world. As such, the principle of a wider set of measures to analyse business impact is
Most significant in this area is the concept of integrated reporting. Led by the IIRC, this is a process that results in a
periodic integrated report by an organisation about value creation over time. This is a concise communication about
how an organisation’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment,
has led to the creation of value in the short, medium and long term.
Over 100 global organisations are now part of the IIRC Integrated Reporting Pilot Programme and seeking to
bring together environmental, social and financial reporting in a coherent body. Others are exploring the notion of a
multi-capitals model that takes an even wider view, adding human and natural capital to the mix.
One current challenge is in agreeing upon the right non-financial measures that work across sectors so that progress
of one organisation can be compared with peers inside and outside its industry. With momentum now building, many
are confident that a new blueprint and frame of reference can be adopted shortly.
Future growth will demand a new frame of reference
To support inclusive growth and taking a longer term view, new business
reporting standards may well accelerate the adoption of a wider set of
measures of impact and value across all business sectors
Socially Valued Organisations
Context and Emerging Issues4
Looking back, there are several examples of organisations that have successfully addressed social issues whilst
remaining commercially competitive. How they did this varied, but most focused their efforts on benefiting the
communities within which they exist. Some notable UK based exemplars include:
• Wedgwood: As well as being a talented potter and prominent slavery abolitionist, Josiah Wedgwood took a keen
interest in improving roads, canals, schools and living conditions, even building a village, Etruria, for his workers
• Cadburys: Cadbury was first established in Birmingham in 1824 selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate. Starting
in 1893 the founder’s nephew, George Cadbury, developed the Bourneville estate, a model village that would
‘alleviate the evils of modern more cramped living conditions’.
• Port Sunlight: Another model village was built in 1888 by Lever Brothers to accommodate workers for its soap
factory near Liverpool. William Lever personally supervised planning as 800 houses were built to house a
population of 3,500.
As Adam Smith put it back in 1776: “No society can be flourishing and happy of which the far greater part of
members are poor and miserable.”
Organisations helping to tackle societal issues is nothing new
In the past large organisations have successfully addressed societal
challenges by understanding how they can best influence the wider
community while still maintaining commercial success
Over recent years several sectors seem to have lost connection with society. The financial crisis highlighted fault lines
in how the financial economy operates and the risk to the real economy when societal needs and the behaviour of
organisations become disconnected.
In August 2013 Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, underlined the problem:
“I think finance can absolutely play a socially useful and an economically useful function but what it needs in order to
do so, the focus has to be, of the financier, the people working in the banking system, has to be on the real economy,
what it does for businesses making investment, what ultimately it means for jobs in the economy. And it’s the loss of
that focus, it’s finance that becomes disconnected from the economy, from society, finance that only talks to itself and
deals with each other, that becomes socially useless.”
In a recent lecture, Christine Lagarde of the IMF described the need for a financial system for the 21st century with “a
financial structure in which industry takes co-responsibility for the integrity of the system as a whole, where culture is
taken as seriously as capital, and where the ethos is to serve rather than rule the real economy.”
In recent years the success of several companies and sectors has become
disconnected from the success of society. These companies have made
gains which are financially independent from the progress of society
While systemic issues with the banking industry are very much centre-stage, other sectors and specific companies
are also seen as exploiting society without benefiting it. With the fallout from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill still a thorn
in the side of the energy sector, the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico further
emphasized a popular view that oil companies make healthy profits for their shareholders when everything’s going well
but it is governments, tax payers and local communities who pay the price as soon as something goes wrong.
In the pharmaceutical sector several companies such as GSK, Novo Nordisk and Novartis are making significant
progress but many see others as profiteering: With an annual R&D spend of a $135 billion, many believe the industry’s
output of 25 to 35 new drugs per year to be a poor return. Moreover, given that of the 12 new cancer drugs approved
in 2012, 11 cost the healthcare system more than $100,000 a year per patient, leading industry commentators are
questioning whether the sector has become skewed to disproportionally reward ‘sickcare’ over healthcare. When
society has pushed back, as is the case over high-priced HIV drugs in Africa, the sector has shown that there are
alternative models that can be adopted.
The WHO sees the harmful use of alcohol to be a global problem that compromises both individual and social
development. Alcohol is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease burden; it is the leading risk factor in the Western
Pacific and the Americas and the second largest in Europe. In the US, alcohol is the most common drug used among
adults. It results in 2.5m deaths each year and 9% of all deaths in the 15 to 19 age group. While the alcoholic drinks
sector has revenues of over $1 trillion, the cost of the damage being done to society is far greater. It causes harm
far beyond the physical and psychological health of the drinker. Alcohol is associated with many serious social and
developmental issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.
It is clear why in some sectors the ‘privatisation of profit and socialisation of risk’ phrase is being used and hence why
many see the need for change.
Business systems need to adapt and change
Today, the business world largely optimizes economic growth, transfers
some of the costs of doing business to society and allows for inequitable
sharing of benefit: there is a ‘privatisation of profit and socialisation of risk’
In many sectors, there is a growing group of commercial organisations that are seen as having high social value today.
• Bharti Airtel: The Indian mobile operator has brought affordable mobile telephony to more than twenty countries
and, at home, is supporting improving female education.
• BBC: Although the first to be critical of its own performance, the education, news and entertainment organisation is
globally recognised for its impartial stance on pivotal issues.
• John Lewis Partnership: The employee-owned UK retailer is widely regarded for its equitable partnership-based
ownership structure and seen as a blueprint for “industrial democracy”.
• LEGO: The world’s second largest toy company has grown not by trying to be the biggest but the best and believes
that it has the responsibility to invent the future of play.
• Narayana Health: This Indian company has pioneered affordable, high-quality healthcare and delivers leading edge
cardiac surgery at a fraction of the cost of other providers.
• Novo Nordisk: This pharmaceutical company has led the way in helping improve education and wider policy to fight
diabetes – the disease that is its main area of focus.
• Patagonia: The Californian outdoor clothing company is a leading example of responsible action with high levels of
waste recycling, low energy and water use.
• Tata: As well as applying community philanthropy principles applied across the conglomerate, Tata has invested
heavily in building new hospitals and schools across India
• Toms: With every pair of shoes brought this US manufacturer provides free shoes to children in need ‘one for one’ –
10 million pairs to date.
Being successful and being socially valued
However, there are several organisations taking a lead back to a moral ‘true
north’ that are seen globally as not only doing the right thing but also doing it
at scale – and are perceived to be both socially valued and socially valuable
Looking across numerous companies, there appear to be three core elements that provide the foundations that
socially valued organisations are built upon: doing the right thing, doing it well and being judged by society:
• Doing the right thing – Ensuring that activities are strategically aligned with the needs of the societies within a
• Doing it well – Executing consistently in terms of long-term vision and short term decisions for the benefit of all
• Being judged by society – Recognising that society is the arbiter of whether an organisation is creating or
Two examples of multinational companies that have been attracting much attention in delivering in this context are
Unilever and Nestlé:
The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan sets out to decouple the company’s growth from its environmental impact, while
at the same time increasing its positive social impact. It has three big goals to achieve by 2020 – to improve health
and well-being, reduce environmental impact, source 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably and enhance
the livelihoods of people across the value chain.
As notably profiled by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, Nestlé is one of the leading lights in ‘shared value’.
It’s Creating Shared Value programme is based on the premise that it can create value for shareholders by doing
business in ways that specifically help address global and local issues in the areas of nutrition, water and rural
development. The company believes that it can do business in ways that both deliver long-term shareholder value and
Three foundations of the socially valued organisation
From the research and multiple discussions with different groups around
the world, three core foundations have emerged as key for organisations
wishing to become socially valued
Ensuring that activities are aligned with the needs of the societies in which a company operates is no easy task.
However, the reason why a company chooses to pursue social responsibility is arguably an essential part of the
equation for long-term success and impact.
A central tenet of those who advocate for shareholder capitalism is that profit should be the primary business goal:
a firm’s sole obligation is to generate returns for its shareholders. Under this logic, the only reason to pursue a social
goal is the belief that there will be a positive financial return associated with that activity.
This is a critical job for leaders: to establish clarity about purpose, values, and the business model. Purpose is about
articulating what it is you are trying to build. Values define how you will pursue that purpose. The business model
spells out how the organisation will remain financially viable, delivering sufficient short-term returns to investors while
establishing a platform for long-term success.
From the research and subsequent discussions that formed the core of this project, 32 different characteristics of a
socially valued organisation emerged. These cover a wide range of issues and are each detailed in the appendix of
Doing the right thing
From these discussions, we can see a number of important characteristics
of socially valued organisations. These can be grouped into two areas -
beliefs and behaviours
Beliefs in doing the right thing Behaviours in doing the right thing well
The idea that societal progress should be inclusive is not new but it is arguably only as recently as 1987 that the
need to balance short and long term progress was made so explicit. The publication by the Brundtland Commission
report ‘Our Common Future’ defined sustainable development as: “Development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
As the ideas put forward by the Brundtland Commission have developed, moving from being the concern of
international institutions and government to being on the business agenda, it has become clear that commercial
organisations have a key role to play in contributing to societal success by consistently meeting their obligations to
stakeholders and also helping to create opportunities that enable society to:
• Meet both short-term and long-term needs
• Build capacity and resilience to risks and shocks
• Achieve inclusive societal progress today and tomorrow that benefits all
• Ensure that progress is not at the expense of future generations
Doing the right thing well
In terms of execution, there are four main attributes that help organisations
have clarity of purpose, a long term focus, the ability to make consistent
decisions and build capacity
is not at the
and resilience to
risks and shocks
Meet both short
term and long
that benefits all
The success of organisations in helping society progress is not judged by the organisations but by society that often
applies a different set of criteria to those used by organisations. Whether organisations are creating or destroying
value is no longer judged purely in terms of economic profit and loss but in areas which are harder to quantify such as
concepts of trust, wellbeing, social and human capital.
Different stakeholders see things differently and so, going forward, commercial organisations will have to ensure
that they consider the needs of a wider range of stakeholders in the societies within which they operate. This clearly
makes things hard for organisations whose focus is mainly on the bottom-line.
As has been shown again recently in the fashion industry’s response to the 2012 factory collapse in Bangladesh,
society is the arbiter of whether an organisation is creating or destroying value. Judgment is based on perceptions
influenced by a wide range of issues and so how the sector as a whole, as well as leading companies within it,
chooses to act will be under scrutiny. In the same way as the soft-drinks sector cannot walk away from obesity and
the financial sector cannot ignore inequality, the fashion industry has to deal with safety and labour law in its suppliers’
facilities just as much as cheap clothes and anorexia.
Being judged by society
Ultimately, no matter how much an organisation can plan and act to deliver
benefit, the arbiter of what is valued is down to society itself – the external
world judges who is valued most
The most significant issues discussed in the different workshops were mapped and those that resonated in two or
more regions then highlighted:
Authentic Organisations: Companies are open about their beliefs and perspectives and transparent on the financial
and wider impact of their activities. As society appreciates true transparency, it sees organisations as being authentic.
Connected Success: Organisations connect their own success with social progress. They only perform activities that
are consistent with delivering societal success. They redeploy and / or reconfigure their assets to be valuable to society.
Delivering on Dreams: Organisations focus more on helping individuals and communities achieve their aspirations
by employing more flexible business models that allow local adaptation of principles to suit the ambition.
Enlightened Leaders: Organisations have leaders who recognise the impact of their decisions and behaviours on
the future success of the societies in which they are a part of and that they serve.
Know Their Purpose: Organisations clearly understand why they exist, what they do beyond the pure financial and
appreciate their wider role and purpose in society. It guides all that they do.
Multi-capitals: Organisations recognise that they create more than just economic value. They increasingly measure
and openly report on their activities and associated impacts using an accepted multiple capitals approach.
Total Transparency: The winning organisations of 2020 embrace an approach of complete transparency. As data is
made open and shared via multiple social platforms, the best companies are those that are
Viable Business Models: Organisations move beyond philanthropy or CSR initiatives to operate viable, long-term
business models that solve or address social problems whilst also achieving their own financial and other objectives.
The emerging view from around the world
In discussions, different emphasis was placed on varied characteristics
as different societies expect different things for the future. Of these, eight
appear to have global relevance - being seen as key in multiple regions
Know Their Purpose
Viable Business Models
Delivering on Dreams
The Socially Valued Organisation in 2020
Being Part of The Change5
Under each of the three big challenges, discussions identified a number of issues that the world, and regions within it,
are facing. Some of these are global, and others specific to one continent:
Increased Societal Stresses:
• Imbalanced Population Growth
• Shifting Demographics
• Growing Urbanisation
• Rich Poor Gap
• Rectifying a Failing Educational
• Overcoming Dysfunctional
• Access to Skilled Roles
• Intensified Cultural Identity
• Urban Youth Bulge
• New Youth Ambitions
• Escalating Healthcare Spend
• Muslim Europe
• Transitions in Morality
• Crowd Power
• New ‘Political’ Leaders
• Latino Influence
• Girl Power
• Data Privacy
• Replacement of Low-end Jobs
• Political Polarisation
• Dilution of Traditional Centres
• US Educational Access
• Technology Fuelled Societal
• (Re)structuring Long-term
• Key Resource Constraints
• Extreme Weather Migration
Changing Business Environment:
• Asian Wealth Shift
• Ubiquitous Data Access
• New Growth Markets
• Cities Not Countries
• Stronger Leadership
• Increased Trade and Integration
• Company Purpose
• Alternative Currencies
• Reallocation of Capital
• Erosion of Institutional Trust
Be part of the solution
Experts at our workshops felt that socially valued organisations will be seen
to be actively contributing to societal success by addressing elements of the
three big challenges and helping society navigate through the uncertainties
The notion of companies and business generally being ‘a part of society and not apart from it’ is something which
many have reiterated since the phrase was highlighted by Unilever’s Niall Fitzgerald and Mandy Cormack in a
Conference Board / Harvard University / International Business Leaders report in 2010:
“…if society is to continue to accept the granting of substantial rewards for successful business leadership, it is entitled
to expect complete leadership – an approach that combines optimum returns for shareholders with responsibility for
social and environmental performance. Company leaders are not only leaders of business but leaders within society.
We are a part of society not apart from it.”
In the coming years, those organisations that are most valued by society will be seen to be working together with
multiple agencies to lead change. They will share a clear view of what success means to them and to wider society
and to be actively addressing big challenges and helping society navigate through the uncertainties.
As organisations look at what they must do and what they could do, the answers emphasised fall into four areas:
• How they should operate,
• What they believe,
• How they behave, and
• How they measure success.
Business has to be a part of society - and not apart from it
Many agree that, as some already do today, in the future successful
organisations will not only know how they should operate, what they should
believe and how to behave but will also be clear on measuring impact
How they operate How they believeWhat they believe
How they measure sucess
Returning to the scenarios framework outlined earlier, we can see how the varied issues fit in with the four alternative
views of the future. Although the scenarios are global this does not mean that all parts of the world will display the
same characteristics at the same time. Understanding how things currently operate and watching for signals of
change will enable organisations to adapt to shifting societal needs and expectations and create new opportunities
along the way.
In a world of Global Elites, socially valued organisations will need to be respected leaders in their area of expertise.
Respect will be earned by demonstrating the value of what they do to the global elite and to wider parts of society
In a world of National Self Interest, socially valued organisations will need to be a valued partner to national
regulatory bodies and to government. This position will be won by proving how they create value that furthers national
interest both at home and overseas.
In a world of New Multiculturalism, socially valued organisations will need to be trusted partners to leaders across
different sectors and in different parts of the world. Showing how they can contribute to addressing the big challenges
in a way that is inclusive, equitable and outcome-focused is how trust will be deserved.
In a world of Networked Scale, socially valued organisations will need to be trusted advisors to many different
people who may represent cities, communities and enterprises of different sizes. Here, trust will be based not just on
the quality of advice but also on the value that the organisation brings to the networks.
Socially valued organisations in each scenario
Given future uncertainty, socially valued organisations have to be able to
apply themselves in the most relevant way in the different scenarios and so
ensure that their beliefs and behaviours align with the zeitgeist
BroadNarrow Definition of Growth
Global Elites – Respected Leader
Enlightened leaders that can cooperate to drive systemic
change by taking a stance based on a clear point of view,
supported by viable business models that demonstrate
the benefits of change. By earning the right to participate
in discussions through consistent delivery of societal
value they are able to influence others to contribute to
societal success and so drive change they believe in.
National Self Interest – Valued Partner
Leaders who recognise the impact of decisions on the
future success of the societies of which they are a part
and their responsibility to fill the societal gaps left by
government and to speak out on issues that matter.
Whilst global companies are able to use their scale to help
achieve national objectives whilst keeping in mind the
bigger picture, all recognise the need to create more than
economic value and to protect and enhance the local
environment and to contribute to global goals.
New Multiculturalism – Trusted Partner
Organisations that are open, transparent and actively seek
to collaborate and partner with different stakeholders in
order to contribute to agreed global objectives through
practical local actions. They are consistent and balanced in
their decision making, are clear on how they connect their
success to social progress and redeploy and reconfigure
their assets to where they can best add value.
Networked Scale – Trusted Advisor
Organisations that act consistently to create shared value
through long-term collaborations and partnership. By
having a track record of delivering tangible societal benefit
they earn the trust and the right to align and connect
others and so achieve systemic change. Working at the
local level to help individuals and communities achieve
their aspirations and realise their potential they often create
most societal value by helping others to do the right thing.
Fragmented and Local
1. Organisations to be accountable to stakeholders,
not just shareholders
Achieving this is seen to involve a number of elements
including changes in regulatory enforcement alongside a
clarification of some of the legal requirements for companies
in terms of maximising shareholder value. In the many
regions where maximising shareholder value is not actually
a legal requirement, but instead a popular misconception,
explanation is also required.
2. Success to be measured across a broader set of
The adoption of the multi capitals approach, assessing
net creation of capital is seen as a pivotal action and one
that is supported and supports much of the work already
underway around integrated reporting. In addition, a review
of director accountabilities in line with these is a necessity.
3. Success to be measured over a longer time horizon
Moving away from the short-term focus on financial
performance is clearly being advocated by many and, as
a means of starting the shift ending, or de-emphasising,
quarterly reporting is one tangible step. However as
the ‘currencies’ for non-financial capitals are agreed
and adopted, several bodies see that businesses may
overcome the ‘time value of money’.
4. Business to bear full cost of externalities and risks
Some people see that society should decide what
business should pay for and what is provided by
society. When the system works well it is clear where
responsibilities lie: business accepts the costs and risks
of doing business and benefits from the value that it
creates, and society enjoys the benefits that business
provides and accepts some of the costs of the downside.
In societies that are functioning well it should be clear
what is and is not acceptable for business to do.
In conclusion, from comments and feedback received to date, informed people from companies, academia, NGOs,
charities and government recognise that change is needed not just within organisations but also at a systemic level.
Evidently the banking sector is highlighted as being particularly worthy of change, but it is not alone.
Four key shifts need to happen:
Many conclude that change is needed at a systemic level
Individual organisations can only do so much - achieving global success will
require resetting of several business environments including the purpose of a
business, how success is measured and how the financial economy operates
Four key shifts need to happen at scale across all sectors for real systemic change:
Success to be measured across a broader set of measures
Organisations to be accountable to stakeholders, not just shareholders
Success to be measured over a longer time horizon
Business to bear the full cost of externalities and risks
1. Identifying and
2. Meeting societal
3. Culture and
5. Influence and
9. Reporting and
Implications for Organisations
How well are the challenges identified made real across our organisation?
Are the challenges linked to specific organisational issues
we face and can respond to?
How well do we challenge ourselves to look across new time-frames,
to understand how changes outside our control will impact our
sector and to plan for an uncertain future?
How well do we track signals and signs of change?
Q1. Identifying and Responding to Challenges
Do we actively seek to understand the big challenges that are facing society?
How well do we discern when it is best to lead, collaborate or follow on select
socially valued topics?
What processes do we employ to retain core focus, yet be agile enough to
respond to shifts of what is socially valued at a given point in time?
How well do we influence our sector with regards to having a socially valued approach?
How does our response to being socially valued meet the needs of diverse
perspectives from a number of stakeholders and locations?
Q2. Meeting Societal Expectations
How well do we understand the implications of what future society will
expect of us?
How well do we involve staff in determining our societal focus and response?
What practices do we use to help staff develop a broader societal perspective?
To what extent do we expect customers to have an influence over what we do for society?
How well do we involve stakeholders in determining our societal focus and response?
Q3. Culture and Engagement
How is our strategy led by the needs of society and the communities
How well do we identify the need for new or additional capabilities?
How well do we listen out for the needs of society?
In what ways do we embed a culture of empathy towards stakeholder
views on societal needs?
In what ways do we demonstrate a capacity to learn and deploy new skills?
Q4. Society-focused Capabilities
How do we best use our existing capabilities to create new sources of
How well are we able to adapt our business to a changing regulatory environment?
Do our actions reflect the regulatory changes that we would like to see?
Are we doing enough to address society’s needs, given the relative size
and influence of our organisation?
Do we benchmark against society’s most valued organisations, or
just within our sector?
Q5. Influence and Obligation
Are we sufficiently influential in shaping our regulatory and operating
How well are we respected for our ability to work with other organisations to
tackle significant issues?
Do we prioritise a focus on societal needs in the partnerships that we form?
Does our organisation work in partnership with the communities in which it operates?
Q6. Collaboration and Leadership
Does our organisation know where it will lead or collaborate and where it
Is our decision-making structure one that integrates external perspectives?
What do we have in place as our reference point that ensures our decisions
taken are in a consistent, coherent fashion?
How do we respond to society when we get it wrong?
How well do our decision-making processes embrace societal needs?
Are all of our actions and communications consistent, aligned and coherent?
How do we ensure that each customer experience reinforces our
focus on societal needs?
Are we humble in our efforts to serve society?
Does our focus on societal needs sufficiently guide our actions?
What will we choose to report to stakeholders beyond legal requirements, and why?
How well do we utilise and report on multiple forms of capital - monetary, physical,
human, relational, natural and organisational?
How well do we incorporate a long-term view within short-term reporting cycles?
Q9. Reporting and Measurement
What will stakeholders want us to report on in 2020?
In what ways do we build an active, two-way dialogue with stakeholders?
How do we balance retaining control of our brand versus it being
steered by consumers?
Are we prepared to change the way we act to be in tune with societal needs?
Q10. Reputation Management
How will we safeguard our reputation in the future?
The 32 Characteristics of Socially Valued Organisations
Organisations align their plans with collective world / regional initiatives.
They contribute to macro goals either directly or by ensuring that
resources are allocated to where they can make the most difference.
Companies are open on their beliefs and perspectives and transparent on
the financial and wider impact of their activities. As society appreciates true
transparency, it sees organsiations as being authentic.
Bridging the Gap
Organisations recognise that they have a responsibility to fill the gaps left
by government as the lines of accountability blur between commercial
activity, civil society and the state.
Closing the Wealth
Organisations seek to close the wealth gap, aiming for equality of
opportunity, fostering entrepreneurial characteristics and re-imagining the
public/private partnership so that growth benefits everyone.
Consistent Decision Making
Organisations adopt balanced decision-making processes that drive
consistent behaviours – using an appropriate set of measurement criteria,
metrics and long-term horizons.
Organisations behave consistently, with integrity and with honesty in all
that they do – with clear alignment between their strategic objectives,
behaviours, culture, systems and incentives.
Organisations connect their own success with social progress. They only
perform activities that are consistent with delivering societal success.
They redeploy and / or reconfigure their assets to be valuable to society.
Deep Moral Reach
Socially valued organisations utilise their authority to help stakeholders to
do the right thing and recognise the need and obligation to show them
how others are better off by doing so.
Delivering on Dreams
Organisations focus more on helping individuals and communities achieve
their aspirations by employing more flexible business models that allow
local adaptation of principles to suit the ambition.
Organisations live by desired human traits and treat others as they wish
to be treated themselves, provide time and space to pursue innovation,
display a visible conscience and apologise when things go wrong
Driving Systemic Change
In order to shift the status quo, organisations increasingly refrain from
token individual actions and seek to enable bolder, bigger, collaborative
actions that can drive change across a whole sector or system.
Organisations take a broader view of their impact and responsibility and
take conscious, consistent, smart decisions that enhance quality of life and
help to provide a cleaner, healthier environment.
Organisations exhibit more visible understanding that being open and
welcoming to a breadth of thought, perspective and behaviour can enable
more progress to be made more quickly.
Enlightened LeadersOrganisations have leaders who recognise the impact
of their decisions and behaviours on the future success of the societies in
which they are a part of and that they serve.
Organisations reflect a desire to care for the next generation, actively
questioning the value of capital, implying a return to notions of tradition, of
passing on, of a legacy that’s about more than money.
Having a Point of View
Organisations increasingly take a public stance on matters that impact the
public good. They are bold and consistent in what they think and say and
are open and proud to share their perspective.
Organisations help to increase the capacity of society to harness and
cultivate the power and influence of the individual, encouraging an equality
of opportunity for all but promoting personal impact.
Know Their Purpose
Organisations clearly understand why they exist, what they do beyond
the pure financial and appreciate their wider role and purpose in society.
It guides all that they do.
Legacy of Helping
Organisations are no longer selected for contracts based solely on financial
and capability criteria: Clear long-term partnerships and a track record of
providing tangible societal benefit are given equal importance.
Organisations recognise that they create more than just economic
value. They increasingly measure and openly report on their activities
and associated impacts using an accepted multiple capitals approach.
Global organisations have activities at a super-local level, recognising the
mutual dependency of company competitiveness and the health of the
communities. They build relevant capacity through local control.
Organisations become increasingly non-hierarchical and non-bureaucratic,
embracing the wider trust across a network and the ability to place the
individual at the core of a community.
Organisations proactively review issues and opportunities with regard
to society’s needs and their ability to impact these. Attitudes shift to be
reflective, agile, proactive and willing to take risks in line with values.
Partnering and Collaboration
Organisations know when to lead, when to collaborate and when to
support: They can perform each role successfully so as to help society to
progress and recognise growing importance of this competency.
Valued companies and institutions go out of their way to ensure, equip and
enable colleagues, individuals and communities to thrive and so fulfill their
dreams and aspirations.
Organisations demonstrate new forms of reciprocity suggesting ways of
bypassing or improving upon the dominant consumer model that means
more than shareholder value.
Leading organisations choose a single area of long-term focus for activities
that enhance society and stick to this to achieve significantly greater social
and business value from their investments.
Scale for Good
Large organisations increasingly use their scale to pursue positive social
and environmental good. They influence wider business practices,
shift systemic behaviours and seek to change long-standing paradigms.
Organisations create shared value for society by addressing its needs and
challenges without actively disadvantaging anyone. They aim for shared,
growth – the re-distribution of capital for the benefit of society at large.
Stakeholder perspectives increasingly define the brand identity and the
identity of an organisation is, in turn, reflected in individual customer and
employee views of how society sees the organisation.
The winning organisations of 2020 embrace an approach of complete
transparency. As data is made open and shared via multiple social platforms,
the best companies are those that are ultra-transparent.
Viable Business Models
Organisations move beyond philanthropy or CSR initiatives to operate
viable, long-term business models that solve or address social problems
whilst also achieving their own financial and other objectives.
Sources and Resources
BBC - Davos: 22 facts people should know
Christine Lagarde: A New Multilateralism for the
Brundtland Commission ‘Our Common Future’
Future Agenda – The World in 2020
IIRC Integrated Reporting
IMF warns on threat of income inequality
Jospeh Stiglitz - Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the
Sinking of the World Economy
Mark Carney Interview - August 2013 BBC Radio 4
Michael Porter – Creating Shared Value
Niall Fitzgerald and Mandy Cormack – The Role of
Business in Society
OECD: Divided We Stand: Why Inequality
Oxfam - Working for the Few: Political capture and
Post 2015 Development Agenda
Unilever Sustainable Living Plan
UN Millennium Development Goals
UN Population Data
WHO – Data and Statistics
WHO view on Alcohol
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