What does public value mean to you?” was the theme of our twitter chat on #EthicalHour on Monday, 22 January 2018. We were delighted to dialogue with followers and hear about their vision of what public value is or should be. Public value acknowledges the societal role of business and considers both society and the environment as key stakeholders of any company. It’s time, however, that each of us as citizens embraces this concept and demands that business play its role properly.  Key points of the conversation are reproduced below.

First, we had an interesting exchange on terminology:

– I’ve not come across the phrase ‘public value’ before, but I guess to me it means businesses that focus on people and planet as well profit – providing something ‘more’ Jen Gale @jengale_

– it certainly seems to be more a US phrase, but think the concept is similar to when we speak of social value/impact here in the UK? SE Mark CIC @SE_Mark

– The conversations are definitely happening here in the UK, but I think its just different wording! Social Change Agency @SocialChangeAg

– Yes I think so too – shows how important language is when communicating these concepts! @ethical hour

– What terminology would you say is in wider circulation @OfficialCause4 ? Business with purpose? Social Change Agency @SocialChangeAg

– I’d say conscious business, purpose-based, purpose-led, social enterprise etc @ethicalhour

– Agreed, I think social enterprise is the word I think of as the closest equivalent to public value business Bisma @BesmaCC

– Public value should also be included in the corporate strategies of big #business, not only social entreprises. As customers and citizens, we should demand respect for #society & the #environment, Your Public Value added

It was clear that public value can be expressed in many different ways, but let’s open up and see what it means to each of us.

The meaning of public value

Q1: What does #publicvalue mean to you and your #business? Check out our video if you need inspiration! 

– Hi guys! We would define public value as steering your biz to have purpose beyond just profit to benefit the wider society. This purpose would define how you work and interact with customers, colleagues and suppliers. Social Change Agency @SocialChangeAg

– To us, #publicvalue means placing the interests of society and the environment at the heart of the business, which takes precedent over creating profits for shareholders. It’s not just about creating social value but ensuring this is an organisations driving purpose at all levels SE Mark CIC @SE_Mark

– Just acting like businesses are a part of society, an active member, not an entity that operates above everyone else. I think value should be reciprocal, society keeps business running, business should support society in return by being additive. BeTheRealChange @Betherealchang1

– It’s all about trust!  If people can’t trust your business/brand/enterprise, then you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle Buy Good. Feel Good. @buygoodfeelgood

– Good evening #ethicalhour sorry I’m late. Profit should not be before #publicvalue but sadly it is. Transparency is key.

– #publicvalue is having products that are kind & healthy to those using them and the environment. Affordable, accessible & functional without compromising on quality. Earth Conscious‏ @EarthConscious_

– I think its good to acknowledge change in the big corporates…none of them are perfect but their small changes to their policies can make huge differences down the supply chain – Oliver B @OneLineDesigner

– Yes, big corporations could think about some simple, clear guiding principles to be used when taking financial, sales, marketing decisions to be sure they create #publicvalue for all their stakeholders in their ecosystems : employees, customers, society, environment Maria del Peso @Maria_delPeso 

– Cooperative model! The workers owning means of production

– You are right. One size won’t fit all. It’s up to everyone to encourage as many people as possible that the smallest change has a overall positive impact. humblestuff @humblestuff 

– To me #publicvalue means business & society working together for the public good — & businesses that do this are the ones I strive to work with and buy from!

– Public value should run through everything you do and stand for whether it is what you make, sell and produce or how you work with your teams The Soap Co. @_thesoapco

– I think this is all related to what is a business’s social #purpose and how are its #SharedValues with #customers & #Society. Dr Gareth Rice @gareth_rice

– I’d say conscious business, purpose-based, purpose-led, social enterprise etc #EthicalHour

We wouldn’t agree that social enterprise is all grassroots – for example, as the accreditation authority for #socents, we have been seeing increasing interest from large Higher Education providers, to demonstrate their considerable social impact: SE Mark CIC‏ @SE_Mark

Giving back to society and the environment

Next question: What companies come to mind when you think of #publicvalue & how do they give back to society & the environment? 

– There are so many to shout out – which is a good thing! The Soap Co. @_thesoapco

– I think primarily of for-profit businesses, those that have taken strides to integrate more seriously SDGs or ethical practices. @unilever comes to mind, who have drastically inc. sustainable products. Seventh Generation & Method – great “green” products Sarah Eisele-Dyrli @SEiseleDyrli

– I should also add that I don’t think it’s either/or. I think their can be a genuine interest on the part of some in a company to provide #publicvalue. Doesn’t mean it’s “fake” if not deep in the culture yet @SEiseleDyrli

– The recent health crisis in France related to tainted milk scandal should remind us of #publicvalue basics in business: at least comply with the law, not harm communities and be transparent & reactive in a crisis situation ! Maria del Peso @Maria_delPeso 

– Agree! Food and fashion both impact on society and the environment. As citizens and consumers, we should make sure we #invest properly!

– I agree with fashion industry! Also food as it has such a high carbon footprint and contributes so much plastic waste #ethicalhour @ethicalhour

– Getting these elements together supports #SustainableDevelopment, which is in the interest of the global #community. #Businesses are part of it as well as we all – whether we are consumers or employees. Gordian Heindrichs @GordianH

– I know it does matter to some, but the scale of problems we’re facing (climate change, poverty, etc) require some major muscle. I love a small biz, but it takes all of society to address these problems, including big biz Sarah Eisele-Dyrli @SEiseleDyrli

– Obviously I want to make a living from my business, but increasingly I feel like I want to ‘change the world’ – educate & encourage people to be more responsible in terms of people, animals & the environment. Not sure where to start at the moment! the naughty shrew @thenaughtyshrew

Innovation around the SDGs

Q3. We believe that tomorrow’s leaders are the ones who #innovate around the #SDGs & #GlobalGoals. What are the most important goals for you and your #business?

– Great question! Really making me think about how I can incorporate as many as possible into my business – thank you! Jen Gale @jengale_

– By only working with companies that are striving to reach the #SDGs, it turns into a virtuous cycle of finding more of these wonderful companies to work with 🙂 Joe Dodgshun @JDJourno

– Yes! I recently read an excellent article on this issue (will post if I find it), about how more large biz & corps are interested in corporate social responsibility, public value, etc but don’t have the tools. We face such big problems, we need all hands on deck! Sarah Eisele-Dyrli @SEiseleDyrli

– Agreed. It shouldn’t just be a PR add-on but part of an organisation’s DNA. Paula Gilbert @plthornton

I’m not sure I think it needs to be in their DNA. Many companies are transitioning to providing #publicvalue, they have to start somewhere. That culture takes time to grow, even if not everyone is on board at first Sarah Eisele-Dyrli @SEiseleDyrli

– Agreed. This is an important chicken and egg debate! I do get annoyed by ‘ethical’ PR puff when you know it’s not what the organisation is about. Paula Gilbert @plthornton

– I’m not always able to tell. Ex- the dish soap my family uses is a “green” product created by a big corp. I want them to make more “green” stuff, even if doing it purely for $ reasons. I’m actually ok if they do it b/c it makes $ if it might move them closer to CSR Sarah Eisele-Dyrli ‏@SEiseleDyrli

– Good example! On another note, I once helped a client pitch to the head of CSR at a global tech company. It was clear the social benefits of investing were done with an eye on the marketing potential. So does it matter?
Paula Gilbert @plthornton

– Right. I know it does matter to some, but the scale of problems we’re facing (climate change, poverty, etc) require some major muscle. I love a small biz, but it takes all of society to address these problems, including big biz Sarah Eisele-Dyrli ‏@SEiseleDyrli

Q4. How has building considerations of #SDGs & #publicvalue into your business model helped #invest in your company’s future?

– Public value should run through everything you do and stand for whether it is what you make, sell and produce or how you work with your teams – The Soap Co. @_thesoapco

– #business can transform the world and shape #social good. Corporations that invest into the #SDGs and #publicvalue with #transparency and participation work in our collective interest. Your Public Value @yourpublicvalue

Getting transparency and engagement right

Q5. #Ethical consumers are rightly cautious of greenwashing: What are your best examples of companies getting #transparency & public engagement right?

We work hard to ensure that all of the companies we partner with are not just #greenwashing! mamoq @think_mamoq

– Not a company, but an institution that brings immeasurable value to society is the public library. I often work at my local & the diversity of people I meet, the interest it stimulates and the initiatives it supports are unlike any other. Companies could learn a lot. Uncorrupted Copy‏ @UncorruptedCopy

Q6. Last question for today’s @ethicalhour: What business sectors most urgently need to contribute to #publicvalue outcomes? #ethicalhour

– Food industry. There are difficult and challenging issues that face them: food waste, organic farming, animal welfare, transport, fuel use… yet food has the power to bring people together, to nourish, to nurture!

Oil & gas industry seems to just be accepted as ‘bad’ so it’s like they don’t even bother to try to offset their negative impacts. Looking at you @Shell_Nigeria. Other industries like fashion need to look at supply chain issues, same with packaging for supermarkets Evangeline Calder @EvieCalder

– Businesses with vested interest in keeping the status quo are the ones most difficult to persuade to change. This is where I feel people power comes in when enough people are prepared to stand up and demand change Caroline Aistrop @CarolineAistrop

A BIG Thank you to ALL!

@yourpublicvalue & @EthicalHour Thank you for tonight’s chat! Loved chatting about #ethicalbusiness and #publicvalue with the community! Evangeline Calder @EvieCalder

Thanks @yourpublicvalue for an interesting and efficiently run #ethicalhour tweetchat tonight! Good discussions as always, and really got me thinking… Kate @ Bright Green @SOBrightGreen 

What a great conversation this was! At Your Public Value, we want to sincerely thank  for hosting us and, more importantly, to thank ALL of you for inspiring answers! We’ll be back on twitter for more chats. In the meantime, keep up the good work!

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