In his new book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, calls for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.

Collaborative Social Innovation.

There is no doubt that collaboration is a key component to the future of sustainable business, in all sectors. Sustainability is no longer a compliance or “just” a corporate social responsibility issue: it is a core business concern that is fundamental to long-term objectives, long-lasting performance and beneficial shared value creation.

Good business is better business, which not only brings improved cost margins and an enhanced corporate image, but also makes valuable contributions to critical global concerns such as climate change and social inequity.

There’s actually no better reputation shield to insulate businesses from future risks, and foster sustainable relationships with customers, employees and communities.

Sustainability: from Convenience to Compliance, Now to Performance.

Nothing is more important today than to collaboratively address the sustainability challenges, strategies, trends and perspectives which are transforming all business models.

There are many new and innovative ways to combine performance with purpose, creating a fruitful dialogue on the role of business in society, like the fact that business cannot be considered separate from social any more.

For example, (re)connecting Purpose (what you stand for as a company), Citizenship (the way you help solve pressing social issues), Employer Value Proposition (what makes you an Employer of Choice) and Social Openness (your ability to listen and share) is what builds a solid and long-lasting reputation.

Connecting purpose, participation & profit creates the conditions for genuine Business Citizenship, one which is solidly grounded in proven evidences of a consistent and coherent sustainable business strategy.

The Power of Integrated Thinking.

So, how does it work?

Everything a company does has an impact on both its performance and society at large. The challenge is to have leadership teams acknowledge that the components of value creation today – Manufacturing and Financial Capital, of course, but also Intellectual, Social, Human and Natural Capital – are diverse yet closely linked.

Sustainability is the biggest opportunity that corporations can seize to innovate and transform their business model, create real differentiation and generate value for all. This is why integrated thinking is the first step: a much wider approach which fundamentally transforms the way corporations conceive their business model.

To make this happen and in order to build a better and more sustainable performance, you need to connect the dots between all the assets of a corporation. Integrated thinking means breaking down all traditional silos and internal boundaries between the sales, marketing, financial, CSR, communications and HR departments. At the end of the day, it’s all about protecting growth and profitability over time, but in a manner which simultaneously protects the world around.

There is a change of perspective here: it’s not just “What I produce”, but also “How I produce” that matters. The environmental, social and human impact of the “How” is a growing concern that people scrutinize.

It is therefore no surprise that, for many stakeholders, shared value is the new frontier.

Creating shared value starts with the idea that sales and sustainability should never be opposed: all stakeholders should benefit from the value created by businesses, with no – or limited and controlled – impact on society.

Pascal Beucler bwsqBy Pascal Beucler, Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP