Corporate stewardship—an expanded sense of caring for people, communities, the environment, and future generations—is increasingly recognized around the world as a principle of enlightened business. We can no longer view corporations as isolated and independent entities, free to do whatever their owners and managers decide. They have a dual role: to deliver a superior return to their shareholders, and to uphold a co-equal responsibility to the economy, society, and the environment. Concepts such as the transition to Fourth Wave leadership embodied in more-sophisticated “integrated financial reporting” are accelerating mainstream acceptance of this core premise that corporate values and social benefit together can offer a path to a sustainable future.
The distinguishing claim of the creating shared value (CSV), “hybrid organization,” and sustainability movements is that this dual role is not in conflict—indeed, quite the opposite. Integration of values into the creation of bottom-line profit is essential for effective adaptation in the 21st-century. CSV advocates urge that companies can naturally embed shared value in their missions, product designs, supply chains, and contributions to local communities. Bottom-line profits will increase by effective integration of CSV values and principles. Yet basic questions remain. For example, how can all essential corporate functions—including leadership, strategy, change management, negotiation, innovation, and collaboration—effectively embody stewardship? Is it possible to upgrade the basic DNA of business organizations so that they can adapt agilely to a global economy that demands perpetual growth and quarterly targets? How can new information technologies and new capabilities in big data analysis contribute? How can organizations best incorporate these activities within established accounting procedures and behavioral measurement processes and protocols such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)?