As social challenges merge with business challenges in the contemporary world, corporations are beginning to look for opportunities to engage in shared value initiatives. Increasingly, shared value projects involve partnerships between NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and businesses designed to address common issues. When these partnerships are formed correctly, they can be instrumental in tackling some of the toughest problems currently faced by the business community.
Successful partnerships occur when each party complements the strengths of the other. Businesses are able to provide a conglomeration of resources that many nonprofit organizations lack. They are able to implement change on a massive scale. This opportunity allows nonprofits to expand their impact and take on initiatives that require many resources. Businesses also provide a natural discipline that ensures all agreed upon solutions are sustainable in the private sector. For their part, NGOs are able to fill certain knowledge gaps in the private sector. Some understand specific cultures and relationships in under-served markets, while others are attentive to the specific needs of different communities. Often NGOs are called upon to evaluate unknown areas of the market. Valuations of areas like biodiversity are critical for businesses looking to transform their supply chain.
The partnership between Coca Cola and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is exemplary of a successful shared value relationship. The WWF began working with Coca Cola in 2007 to conserve freshwater resources. The partnership has been extended through 2020 and will now focus on 11 key regions of freshwater basins. The two parties have also elected to expand the initiative to other conservation areas. By 2020 Coca Cola hopes to reduce carbon embedded in drinks by 25%, begin implementing plant-based renewable packaging, and ensure all ingredients are sustainably sourced. The WWF's detailed knowledge of biodiversity, ecosystems, and climate change is an essential tool in each of these projects. By developing environmental models and a system to evaluate the tradeoff between conserving biodiversity/ecosystems and minimizing costs, the WWF hopes to embed environmental sustainability into decision making. Coca Cola hopes to demonstrate the business case for investing in natural capital. The two parties have much to gain from the joint venture. If their actions are successful, society will gain too.