BORDER business operators have been urged to rethink their role in the community by a leader in the shared value and collaborative fields.
Phil Preston spoke about the benefits of shared value for both business and the community to 55 people in Wodonga on Friday.
“There is a link between business health and social health and it takes some exploration to find the opportunities,” he said.
“I’m not saying there are 2000 opportunities out there for you tomorrow – it takes a little bit of work to find the opportunities.”
As the research manager responsible for $40 billion of investments, Mr Preston helped his firm position for the global financial crisis before he left corporate life to make a difference in the way businesses connected with their communities.
He said businesses embraced “purpose” to improve performance and competitive advantage in the shared value movement.
“It’s where profit and purpose go hand-in-hand rather than head-to-head,” Mr Preston said.
Mr Preston said an example of shared value operating on the Border was Wahgunyah factory Uncle Toby’s approach to enlisting farmers to supply oats through secure contracts.
“They used to import their oats from Canada because local farmers were not keen on growing them because they were not drought-resistant,” he said
“Then Nestle employed agronomists to work with farmers and put money into researching drought-resistant strains of oats.
“This critically helped with financial models for farmers through contracts.”
Regional Development Australia – Murray chief executive Gary Saliba said shared value was another way to engage business with the community.
“From what I see on a global level business is starting to engage with communities,” Dr Saliba said.
“It’s a new way for business to engage with communities and grow business – we can capitalise on that energy as it comes to a height.”
A supporter of the “conscious business” model taking root around the globe, Albury solicitor Chris Halburd said regional cities have a key role to play.
“If we could set up Albury-Wodonga as a hub for conscious business, it would attract new businesses,” he said.
Regional Development Australia – Murray chairwoman Jennifer Weller welcomed the interest from business on Friday.
“So many social enterprises are waiting on funding with bated breath to see if they’re going to be financial,” she said.
“Why can’t we give them certainty as a community to make things happen? We can be self-determining and successful.”