TRANSEARCH Australia were delighted to recently partner with Greening Australia on their Chief Financial Officer appointment. Independent and apolitical, Greening Australia recently celebrated 35 years of conservation impact with a big, bold vision to lead Australia’s contribution to the global conservation effort. From restoring Tasmania as an ‘Island Ark’ for our most threatened mammals, to improving the health of the Great Barrier Reef, this innovative science based conservation organisation aspires to create healthy, productive landscapes across Australia where people and nature can thrive.
“Shared value is defined as policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of companies while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate. It is a business strategy focused on companies creating measurable economic benefit by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business. To qualify as Shared Value, there must be an identifiable economic benefit to the company as well as measurable impact on a social or environmental issue.” – Shared Value Project
Since joining Greening Australia as CEO in 2011, Brendan Foran has led an organisation wide governance and strategy reform program that has led to greater levels of impact, efficiency and resilience. Here he responds to questions about embracing Shared Value and what it means for the success of the organisation.
What does Shared Value mean to you?
At its core, Shared Value is a business strategy, but businesses need an NGO to partner with to create measurable social or environmental value. Therefore, I see it as an opportunity to work with our current or future business partners to return life to landscapes and restore balance to the natural environment with the potential to expand markets, increase productivity and reduce costs or risks.
What led you individually to the Shared Value concept? How did you come across it?
We were looking for ways of partnering with a corporate through either a philanthropy or CSR lens, of course aligned to our strategic priorities, but ultimately as a way of generating revenue for our organisation to do our work on the ground. NAB introduced us to the Shared Value concept and explained they wanted to explore a partnership through that frame and particularly around natural capital, which has since become a project we are jointly working on with them. From there, we delved more deeply into the Shared Value concept and not long after we came on board as a not-for-profit member of the Shared Value Project.
My Shared Value journey started a lot earlier when I was in Corporate Affairs at Alcoa of Australia (from 2002-2011). Alcoa has been a renowned supporter of local community and environmental issues in their 57 years in Australia and during my time there I was involved in a range of projects that would now be considered Shared Value initiatives.
One such project from the mid 2000s was the outsourcing of in-house land management at Alcoa’s Point Henry site to Greening Australia (coincidentally!). There was both cost and ecological benefits at the time, but what started as a leading pilot for native grassland restoration (it was previously thought to be impossible in this country), has evolved into Greening Australia being awarded $10 million of funding from Infrastructure Australia to establish a native seed production area as part of the environmental approvals for the Western Sydney airport – one of the major pieces of infrastructure to be built this century.
What does Shared Value success look like at Greening Australia and where are you at on the journey?
We are still early on our journey with Shared Value at Greening Australia. The opportunity for us lies in better articulating and broadening the conversations we have with corporate partners and private landholders of the commercial return and environmental benefits of undertaking large and ambitious large-scale landscape restoration projects in Australia. Shared Value success at Greening Australia would see our 150 staff understanding and using the framework to help solve some of Australia’s great environmental challenges, demonstrate proof of impact and produce inspirational stories to create influence and get more people to take action.
What is your role individually within Greening Australia to support the company along its Shared Value journey?
I see myself as a Shared Value ‘enabler’ within Greening Australia. For members of my leadership team, our board members and our corporate partners, the Shared Value framework makes sense and I understand that to achieve real scale and impact in our work, we need to create measurable business and environmental value. I am committed to exploring Shared Value opportunities, because I believe they are integral to Greening Australia’s purpose: solving challenges in which nature, communities and economies are all connected, in ways that benefit them all.
How has practicing Shared Value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?
It opens up dialogue with parts of organisations other than those business units we might have traditionally dealt with. In the past these conversations might have been solely with the CSR or sponsorship departments, but increasingly our partners are understanding how our work is linked back to delivering their business strategy. Whether it’s the marketing and communications team at Officeworks or the sustainability team at Virgin Australia, our partners are choosing to partner to enhance their competitiveness whilst improving the environment in the regions where they operate.
It gives me a deeper insight into our partner’s organisation and vice-versa. It’s a strong basis for two or more organisations strategies and objectives to intersect when you can better understand risk and opportunity from multiple perspectives.
What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating Shared Value?
Climate change is one of the most pressing and complex challenges facing us. It is no longer an issue for the next generation and the work we specialise in helps mitigate the impacts and provides the ecological resilience our society and economy has been built on. The Shared Value approach offers a modern set of tools to incorporate climate action into the most critical aspects for businesses. Businesses can create win-win situations where a notable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved with no incremental costs, or even cost savings and perhaps financial return whilst protecting and conserving the environment from further degradation.
If you would like to know more about Greening Australia, visit greeningaustralia.org.au or reach out to me, Grant White, via the contact details below.