CSV will lead to social and economic development of society
by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
She shares her insights into how the shared value model is the only model for the world we are trying to create.
“Doing well and doing good are can no longer be considered to be mutually exclusive concepts.”
“What we are looking to do is create not just a sustainable world but a world in which living together- as co-home owners, co-residents on this planet- is bright, peaceful and positive for everyone.”
I’d like to begin with a story of three men who are stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean and they start to fight. This is what happens when we get stressed, we take it out on those around us and the men in the boat began to do the same thing. To alleviate some stress, they decided to divide the boat into three compartments so each man would have his own one third of the boat and they drew these imaginary lines down the boat to create the division. One day two of the men noticed that a leak had come up in the third man’s part of the boat and water had started seeping into the boat. The two men panicked and told the third man to stop this leak else the boat would sink and they all would drown. To which the third man said, “ Oh! Don’t worry it’s only leaking in my part of the boat!”
We all intuitively understand that imaginary and invisible lines i.e a leak in any part of the boat is going to bring the entire thing down.
The shared value model, as far as I understand, is giving a business model to something that is typically considered more of a spiritual concept. The idea that if you’re talking about a community, a society, a nation or world- we are all together in this boat.
Many people who come to Parmarth Niketan, an ashram in Rishikesh, often say that they are confused. They want to do something to help the world, to help the poor, to benefit the nation and yet they also want to be able to take care of their families. They further say they want to succeed, thrive, prosper, but don’t know which path to take?
Shared value says yes to both. It’s the most beautiful concept today that our world needs a business model. The business strategy of stepping on others’ toes in order to get ahead is not only bad business but it is anachronistic today. It doesn’t belong to the world in which we live.
Doing Well And Doing Good
Today, any value needs to be shared else it’s not a meaningful or lasting value. So, whether we are talking about the accumulation of a value or about enjoying a value- none of it can exist in a vacuum. Mark Kramer has explained in his work on shared value that it is not just a redistribution of the pie but it’s actually an expansion of the pie and that is what every sector of our world needs today. It’s not just about how to take what we have and share but it’s about how to use what we have. In other words, while our abilities and energies are experienced, it is about our expertise to use that and expand on it.
Doing well and doing good are can no longer be considered to be mutually exclusive concepts. Today, they have to go together in order to do really well. Shared value redefines the model of success. It tells us that the picture of success is much bigger than just the amount of profit or the amount of rupees or dollars in a bank account. It tells us that the cost of an item is much bigger than what is on its price tag. The real price of the product is from the production to the sales, in the same way, our definition of success i
We all understand that what we pay for an item in the store, is not necessarily indicative of its true cost to the soil, the land, the rivers, all of our water supply, the air, the people who produced the product, their health, the health of their children so in the same way that any real price tag would have to take into consideration. Just like the real price of a product from production to sales is more than the mere cost of inputs, our definition of success has to expand and be more inclusive. And, that is what shared value is saying- that my success is not in a vacuum.
My success is inextricably linked to yours because if I develop a product, a service or a program and you do not benefit from it, you do not utilize it, it does not uplift you- then my product is a failure. You are at once the purchasers and the beneficiaries of my product, which means that my financial success is directly related to how beneficial that product is for you. In addition to redefining success, we are also redefining the concept of supply and demand.
Typically, in a general business model, our entire marketing is based on convincing people that they don’t have enough, that there is something gravely lacking in who they are and that my product is going to solve that-whether it’s a new model of mobile phones, a new brand of jeans, or a new type of car. Let’s take the example of marketing or advertising for a soap. As Pujya Swamiji was speaking about our global interfaith wash alliance, soap is crucial to the concepts of sanitation and hygiene. It’s crucial to the health of our planet and yet when we look at advertising and marketing for soap what do we see. We see a commercial of a beautiful woman and she is lathering up in the shower. As she sings in the morning, her equally beautiful husband walks into the bathroom and he is also singing. They walk out of the bathroom together, they walk into the kitchen, their child has gotten himself out of bed, bathed, dressed himself, done his homework, is eating his Wheaties and together the three of them walk out of the house, hand-in-hand. At the end you will see a little sign that says we are not selling cleanliness, we are selling happy families. So, the message that is given to all of us is that if you don’t shower in the morning or you don’t sing in the morning or if you have to drag your kid out of bed and force him to have a bath and so on, then the entire problem is that you are using the wrong brand of soap and if you just would change your brand of soap, you too would look like this other happy family. Similarly, cars are sold like that. Children are fighting with each other in the back seat and the whole problem is we must be driving the wrong model of a car. If we just buy this new car our children too will sing in harmony in the back seat.
Supplying To Need Versus Greed
This is really the model on which much of the business is based. There was no demand for a new brand of soap, there was no demand for a new model of a car but because that’s what we produce, we have co-opted marketing to create a demand for what we supply. Shared value here says no. It says let’s look at what the demand really is. So we are not supplying to greed, we are supplying to need and then by supplying to that need, our world benefits and, of course, we benefit. As an example, with our Global Interfaith Wash Alliance we are doing work on building toilets. In India, we are losing about 1600 children under the age of five every day simply due to lack of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. So, building toilets is not nearly philanthropy. So when we look at supply and demand and recognize that supplying a toilets that the people actually want to use – ones that can run with no water, need little maintenance, that do not stink etc., not only are you gaining 1600 consumers or future partners a day, but with the government looking to build a toilet every 30 seconds, your company is going to become a multibillion dollar company. This is how we are looking at the new definitions.
There is another wonderful story that I love of a man who is a carpenter in a company. He is about to retire and the owner of the company says to him, “Do me a favor son. Before you leave and go on to another job, there is just one last house I want you to build for me.” He gives him the basic specifications and says he trusts him with the rest. “You have worked for this company for so long, you are smart and competent. Build this home according to your best concepts,” he tells him. Now the guy is retiring after this project, he doesn’t need another promotion or raise. He doesn’t need to ingratiate himself to his employer. So what does he do? He decides to cut a lot of corners as there is a lot of money to be made in commissions, time to be saved, he would much rather plan for his retirement holidays than put the time into the construction of this home. When the house is finally done he unveils it to the boss. The boss hands over the keys to him, smiles and says, “You have been such a loyal and wonderful employee. I wanted to give you a home like the ones you have made for my company for many years. This house is your partying gift my son.”
The shared value concept makes us understand that we are both the builder and the resident of the home we are creating and building a home in which we need to live. In my opinion not only is shared value a great model but it’s the only model for the world that we are trying to create.
What if someone asked you tell me about your marriage and you said ‘Huh… it’s sustainable’. I would certainly not think that you had a great one. We are not looking to only create a sustainable future, a sustainable planet, and a sustainable world. What do we want our marriages to be, our families to be? You want to be able to say that my marriage is great, it’s positive, it’s bright, and it’s peaceful. Similarly for our future, what we are looking to do is create not just a sustainable world but a world in which living together- as co-home owners, co-residents on this planet- is bright, peaceful and positive for everyone.
Love For Society
To conclude, I will share another of my favorite stories. There was a knock on the door of a woman’s house. She opens the door and finds three old men standing at her doorstep. She asks them to come in but they ask if her husband is home. She says no but that it was alright if they came in. They, however, insist on waiting till her husband came home but introduce themselves as Love, Success and Wealth. They say only one of them could enter her home so when her husband comes home could she please ask him which of them would he like to invite into the house. So the husband comes home and the woman tells him the story. He says they should invite Success in because then their son will get into the university, will succeed greatly and they all will prosper and thrive. To this the wife replies that if instead they were to invite Wealth in then it really wouldn’t matter what college or graduate school the boy goes to because they will already be rich. The daughter then says, “ Mom-dad, we really appreciate what you want to do for us but really your love is just the most important thing. My brother and I will be okay. Please invite Love in the home.” Touched by her daughter’s words, the woman goes out and invites Love. As Love crosses the threshold of the home, the other two men start to cross behind him. The woman says, “I am so sorry but you told us we could only have one man in our house and we have chosen Love.” Love responds, “ If you had chosen Success or Wealth, he would have had to enter alone but wherever Love goes Success and Wealth always follow.”
So what shared value is is based on love for the society because if I don’t love you, I can’t know what you need. If I don’t love you, I cannot help but see you through my own glasses of what I want to create. It is only through love for our society, our community, our nation and our planet that we can possibly understand what is needed and then begin to build models of production and services that respond to that need.
These are transcribed interviews and we have tried to retain the tone of the verbal conversation.