Meghan Ennes: What's Philanthropy's Role in Shared Value?

By Meghan Ennes, Community Coordinator, Shared Value Initiative

"The problems that we seek to solve are not going to be solved by philanthropy alone." This quote came from Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, in one of the most talked-about sessions at the Shared Value Leadership Summit. He was joined by Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation, in a discussion on the role philanthropy has to play in the contribution of businesses to social good. 

Partnership came up again and again. "Our goal is systems change," said McLaughlin. At Walmart, where the foundation gives away $1 billion per year, they're perpetually asking: "How can we elevate retail as a sector?" She cited specific examples where the company is decreasing food waste and training women farmers around the world, but the conversation kept coming back to the larger picture — the "tri-sector athletes" who can bridge the private and public sector to make real change. Walker drove that point home with the outlook at Ford:

"We see everything that we do at the intersection of public and private and policy. At the end of the day, we have to address things systematically and at scale. While it's really exciting to hear about one project or initiative, at the end of the day we have to work at scale. And what gets us to scale is policy."

No one says this will happen quickly. As moderator Mark Kramer put it, "We're living in systems that were created with a different mindset, and to shift them is not easy." The culture of short-termism is deeply embedded in everyday companies, but Walker believes that this trend is changing. Coming from a background in the private sector, he believes that more and more CEOs understand the model of exclusively delivering to shareholders is unsustainable. "We are seeing unprecedented levels of inequality that have huge implications for business," he says. "As the CEO of a major company said to me recently: We're not going to have customers if these trends continue."

Watch the full-length panel featuring Walmart and Ford Foundations:

And watch all 16 plenary sessions of the Summit over at sharedvalue.org

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