Why social justice needs to be on every CEOs agenda.


22 March 2018

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Human centred organisations and the digital revolution go hand-in-hand; only a commitment to digital transformation can fully prepare organisations to compete within an increasingly digitised environment. Human centred organisations prevent shareholders from feeling overwhelmed by structure. By obsessing over the journeys taken by their customers, employees, and those taken by “citizens”, they’re able to create shared value for the company shareholders as well as wider society.


The Citizen Journey

The digital age has empowered ordinary people. These people are not only more demanding, but more conscious and concerned with transparency, ethics and commitment to social justice.

The citizen journey is much less linear than the consumer and the employee journey, and involves three steps: awareness, transaction (the purchase of goods and services or the hiring of a new employee) and, finally, a ‘happy marriage’ or amicable break up if things do go wrong. We need citizens to arrive at three different touchpoints throughout their journey: value, connect and share.



At this point, citizens have a vague awareness of the existence of your organisation. Their awareness may stem directly from commercial recognition of your products and/or services, or, alternatively, campaigns, sponsorships or initiatives related to your organisation centred around CSR or social innovation (Shell’s Eco Marathon, for example).



The citizen interacts with the brand in some way. Often a citizen-led campaign is capitalised on and promoted by a brand, taking advantage of the energy that has been built up by citizens. Advances in digital technology have maximised the impact of these kinds of events.



A deeper connection is made through a relationship with the consumer. In some cases the brand acts as a platform which generates economic value for the consumer (a SAP consultant, for example, or a property owner advertising through AirBnB). A more continuous co-creation relationship might also come into existence, especially if the brand is able to develop a deep, emotional connection with the consumer through the values the organisation represents or stands for.


The societal value generated by a company in terms of impact and innovation, will often result in a more robust, long-lasting relationship with the consumer:


Social footprint:

Our focus should not be on the centralisation of CSR, but rather on the pursuit of ‘social enterprise’ in an economic environment where consumption is no longer growing at the same rate, and where digitally empowered consumers and citizens are more inclined to reward companies that work to create ‘shared value’ within society. Michael Porter, who came up with the concept of ‘shareholder first’, eventually gave up on the idea. The crisis of 2008 made concepts like ‘conscious capitalism’, popularised by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, all the more relevant. Clearly, capitalism is under review.


Social co-creation and co-participation:

Human-centred organisations understand that society is not only the main benefactor of innovation, but also of co-creation. To innovate is to commit to an idea that complicates your own life and to be willing to put your job at risk to make it a reality.

In the digital world, change is occurring rapidly and the life cycles of digital technology and products aimed at helping us understand the digital world have shortened. Digitisation is disruptive and capable of transforming entire industries. Consequently, we must find a way to balance efficiency (the mantra of the 20th century) with innovation (that of the 21st century).

To inspire innovation there is no better tool than engagement. An internal culture that supports and motivates those within it, and prioritises transparency, will produce innovative employees and open itself up to the most innovative suppliers, partners and consumers. Co-creation success stories (Local Motors, MyStarbucksIdea, and the Procter & Gamble Connect & Develop platform, for example) demonstrate the advantages of remote connection and collaboration.


Models of shared value:

HCOs are based on collaborative ecosystems, open to companies, institutions, organisations, collectives and individuals that, together, form a new distributed business model that offers an alternative, more efficient and sustainable service to society. This model transforms the organisation into a platform with which others can generate wealth, and platforms allow for a more robust and rapid growth, and a greater fluidity.

If we were to go one step further and assess the value contributed to society as a whole, any company that creates a demand for goods is beneficial to society. Those goods and services designed to help eradicate the great evils that plague us (hunger, disease…) may appear more attractive in the eyes of the ordinary citizen, however a product designed merely to entertain also fulfills an important function within society.

Digital giants like Apple, Uber and AirBnB stand out for having created ecosystems of value. For instance, Apple has created millions of jobs for developers through its Store, and the average car or property owner can now, effectively, run their own business through AirBnB or Uber. Similarly, Amazon has opened up the digital market to small merchants through its marketplace, Google has created an advertising platform capable of generating income for countless numbers of publishers, and SAP has done the same for consultants.


In this article, we’ve focused on the citizen journey. For a more in depth analysis, read our Rebel Thinking piece on Human Centred Organisations.