The shared value concept has sparked active debate since the term was initially coined by strategy guru Michael Porter, and there have been enduring debates about whether it was the next defining trend in corporate engagement in social good.
Critics argue the idea of shared value may not really be an improvement at all, and question how businesses can cope with the potential trade-offs between profit and social good.
But there are certainly some companies that don’t believe their good works have to be tied to a profit motive — one of them, apparently, is Johnson & Johnson.
In an interview with Devex Impact at the mHealth Summit, Patrick McCrummen, director of communication for worldwide corporate contributions at the pharmaceutical giant, said it doesn’t “subscribe to the Porter idea of shared value.”
Johnson & Johnson made in 2010 a $200 million commitment to work on global maternal and child health, and is now about halfway to its goal of reaching 120 million women a year by 2015, with programs that provide mothers health information through mobile phones — thus making childbirth safer — and treat children at risk for intestinal worms.
McCrummen explained that Johnson & Johnson was built on a credo focused on medical professionals, parents and employees, and this work is an extension of those early values. As a result, he said the company chooses programs and countries to support based on need and not whether they present a business opportunity or the company operates there.
“We see that there are millions of women and children around the world that need help and can’t get it and as a responsibility we have to find innovative solutions that take advantage of our unique skills that we can bring to the table, in addition to our dollars and deliver solutions to those people that otherwise would have no access,” McCrummen noted.
Being a good corporate citizen, he concluded, can help build trust in the brand.
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As a Devex Impact reporter, Adva covers the intersection of business and international development. Previously, she has worked as a reporter at newspapers in both the US and South Africa. Most recently, she has been ghostwriting a memoir for James Kofi Annan, a former child slave and NGO founder in Ghana.