Want to embed purpose in your company? Start by identifying your most bountiful resource.
Companies have discovered the secret to hiring talented young professionals and cultivating a culture where innovation and engagement are a thriving driver of business. And it’s not free lunch, nap pods, or weekly happy hours (though all of those are certainly perks). It’s embedding real, tangible purpose in the business—solving social problems through the principles of capitalism. It’s building a new economy with emerging leaders, and it’s called:
Examples of shared value in action:
Seventh Generation’s approach to minimizing the distance their products travel on the way to market is an excellent example of shared value.
By focusing on situating a number of distribution centers at central locations, Seventh Generation saves on transportation costs while the Earth saves on transportation emissions. It’s a win-win, and it also improves the company’s speed to market.
Overall, companies are finding that not only does doing good attract top talent, but it also pays for itself. After CVS banned tobacco product sales in pharmacies, the company’s operating profit increased by 4%. The value created by such a move is shared—people’s physical health improves, and so does CVS’s financial health. What’s more, people trust companies that walk the talk. We all need to ask ourselves—what are we saying about our company that we can do a better job of actually doing?
Different ways to create shared value:
Shared value is quickly becoming recognized as a leading management strategy for businesses, particularly when it comes to measuring corporate responsibility, attracting top talent, and strengthening the brand, not to mention improving profits and increasing revenue. Let’s take a quick look at different methods for creating shared value:
Many of the companies at the table for shared value are investing their financial capital to help remediate global issues. And that is absolutely fantastic. We’ve seen a lot of smaller companies try to emulate this with vastly fewer resources. We’ve tried too. And somehow, it always seems to not have the kind of impact we’re looking for. A $300 donation to Habitat for Humanity is $300 that Habitat for Humanity needs very much. But it’s very difficult to measure the impact of such a contribution, and in the grand scheme of things, sometimes it feels like a drop in the bucket.
So we’ve been working on another way for companies to frame participation in this shared value movement. And we’d like to offer ourselves as an example.
We are KSS Architects, a small business (~60 employees) based in Princeton, NJ, and Philadelphia, PA. We are a design firm focused on Architecture, Interior Design, and Planning. Our ideas are the shared value capital that we apply through design as we strive to create meaningful and lasting change. We make this investment through and on behalf of our clients as they transform themselves and their communities.
There are many ways to invest in design to create shared value. We can transform a 70s office building with stale cubicles and no daylighting into a place where people are engaged with nature, their work, and each other. Improving air quality, adding individual temperature controls and advanced ventilation all have proven returns on investment. These design measures not only benefit the company through increased human capital productivity (which is actually ~90% of a company’s expenses, compared to the 9% they spend on rent), but these design measures also make a tangible difference in people’s lives.
Take Matrix Corporate Campus, a dilapidated pharmaceuticals office park that KSS transformed into a vibrant corporate campus. By understanding the value of the existing infrastructure, we were able to use pieces of the old infrastructure, such as the pockmarked wall of a blast lab, to create a collaborative and modern environment that inspires engagement and well-being.
Shared issues with shared solutions
These issues are not just for designers—designing for shared value is something we should all be considering. Take New York City. In places like Manhattan, where space is at a premium, we need to be constantly questioning how we are investing in design and how we can be better stewards of that valuable space. At KSS, we love creating spaces that look and feel beautiful, but we believe that if a building is to be truly successful, it needs to meaningfully affect positive change. Design isn’t just about visuals, it’s about solutions. It’s about meaningful change for maximum impact.
So when we design, we ask ourselves:
- How can we make places that break down the barriers between learning, commerce, and community?
- How is our client seeking to make positive change, and how can we foster that mission through the spaces we create together?
- How do we unlock the potential of a project to inspire people to achieve more, businesses to work better, and cities to cultivate stronger communities?
But asking isn’t enough. We challenge ourselves daily, and depend on everyone on our team from individual contributors to leadership to push us further, faster.
Because at the end of the day, the U.S. economy puts over a trillion dollars into construction every year. And we need to make sure that investment has shared value. Just like CVS questioned their ability to call themselves a health company when they were selling cigarettes, we need to make sure we can call ourselves designers—designers who apply aesthetics and problem solving to create solutions. We need to make sure that we are building trust into architecture.
For any company or organization to truly affect meaningful change, it needs to identify how it can capitalize on its most bountiful resource to create shared value. For us, that resource, that capital, is design. It’s what we can offer the world.
So we’ll leave you with two questions:
- What is your most bountiful resource?
- And how can you use it to create shared value?
About KSS Architects
We are a full-service architecture, planning, and interior design firm in Princeton, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since our founding in Princeton in 1983, KSS Architects has matured, growing in size, abilities, and ambitions. Originated with just three architects, KSS today has a staff of over 60 talented and dedicated team members.
Learn more at www.kssarchitects.com
About the Shared Value Initiative
KSS was a proud attendee of the 2016 Shared Value Summit, hosted by the Shared Value Initiative. Learn more about the Shared Value Initiative at www.sharedvalue.org