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It might go against everything you have ever heard, but sharing is one of the best ways to get ahead in the business world. It’s also a great way to create social change.

In light of a recent report by the Australian Government on Impact Investing, it seems that Australian businesses are beginning to see that there is huge potential to increase social investments – and not just for a social purpose.

At Silver Chef, I’ve seen time and time again how working towards commercial and social goals can increase a business’ potential. This fits with the Creating Shared Value (CSV) theory, first put forward by Harvard University Professor, Michael Porter and business leader, Mark Kramer. The pair stated that by combining the interests of both business and society, businesses can create a new model of economic success.

How does it work?

Central to CSV is the adaptation of the traditional business idea of value creation, to assess social issues by asking what innovative methods can be used to create value in both a social and business sense. The opportunities you see largely depend on where you look. But that said, companies can achieve CSV through three main ways:

The benefits to such approaches are:

  • Increased staff engagement and performance
  • Better relationships with local communities
  • Attractive investment opportunities.

The proof

At Silver Chef, CSV was as simple as linking the success of the company to our contribution to families living in poverty. This gives our staff a greater purpose.

I started Silver Chef with a partner in 1986, investing in conveyor ovens after seeing the potential for growth in the Australian home-delivery pizza market. The company grew over the next decade and in 2000, I began to grow tired of the corporate world. I started to ask myself why I was working so hard to make money when I already had enough to live on.

After taking some time out from the business, I got involved in a project that was to fund 40,000 families out of poverty through Opportunity International Australia (OIA). This re-awakened my desire to succeed. I wanted to be able to participate in more of these projects, so I went back to work. Realising how much this motivated me, I also recognised the potential for it to motivate others at Silver Chef. This is where CSV comes in.

OIA shares an entrepreneurial focus with Silver Chef.  While we help Australian entrepreneurs through a rent-try-buy system, OIA helps entrepreneurs in developing countries with small loans so that they can establish a business, earn an income and ultimately provide for their family. With 97% of OIA’s loans repaid, it’s an incredibly effective way to tackle poverty.

In a strategic planning meeting in 2009, Silver Chef set itself the target of helping one million families in India out of poverty by 2020 through OIA. The donation comes out of the English Family Foundation, which is the major shareholder in Silver Chef. Therefore, as Silver Chef’s income grows, so does the donation.

So far more than 290,000 families have been helped and our staff are incredibly proud of the difference they have made in the lives of others.

Connecting staff with a greater good and giving them a higher purpose gives them permission to really succeed, and it also enables you to attract the best people. For the last three years, Silver Chef has been recognised as one of the top 50 best workplaces by BRW magazine.

There is no doubt that Silver Chef has seen significant financial growth. We have grown from a small business to a public company now valued at $230 million. This is because we have great people around us who are aligned to a meaningful purpose.

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Allan English

Allan English

Allan is the founder and Non-Executive Chairman of Silver Chef Limited, a public company that listed on the stock exchange in 2005. In 2010 Allan stepped down as CEO to focus on his philanthropic interests and established the English Family Foundation, an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs in driving change in their communities. The Foundation focuses its funding scalable, sustainable and measurable business models for delivering community benefit both in Australia and abroad. With a strong interest in poverty alleviation programs in developing countries, Allan is an active supporter and Chairman of Opportunity International’s National Ambassador Steering Committee. Allan is also very active in supporting entrepreneurs and community organisations in South east Queensland and was recognised in 2012 by the Queensland Community Foundation as Philanthropist of the year.

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