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November 22, 2016


For this month’s meeting, Lyna Tremblay, acting moderator for this evening’s session, kicked it off by reminding the audience that September’s event topic of How to be innovative in a highly regulatory environment had been discussed and tonight’s session was yet again focused on Innovation although from a very different stand point; Combining Purpose and Profit, can those 2 statements be coalesced? In order to answer that question we were privileged to have Lucie Bourgeois founder of Umalia Inc. whose mission is to help businesses realize the tremendous potential of their commitment to social responsibility for a strong and sustainable social impact and enhanced organizational performance.

Lucie started her presentation by saying that she strongly believes that societal initiatives and the pursuit of profits in businesses can and should go hand in hand.

Creating a shared value is a management approach, we need to create that mind shift; the concept is drawn from business, academia with the goal of making it bigger and more sustainable.

Creating a shared value defines itself by the want to create a shift that will allow people to talk about societal issues, identifying specific ones that surround our brand, our company and our ecosystem. In many categories, differentiation is becoming imperceptible or futile, businesses need to find other ways that will enable them to grow in the environment; societal issues can be considered as business opportunities. As stated by Desmond Tutu, ‘’we live in a moral universe’’. Lucie added that there is a role for business and society and that role needs to be redefined. The model of capitalism is to be reconsidered without changing the core nature of what capitalism is, i.e. generating profit. Lucie clarified that shared value is not philanthropy, personal values and balancing stakeholder interest, but rather setting in place policies and practices that will enhance the competitiveness of the company while simultaneously advancing the economic and societal conditions for sustainable progress and profit.

4 criteria have to be met to create a shared value:

  1. Address a societal need: must be beyond the inherent benefits of the products/services offered
  2. Ensure a transformative Impact: measurable societal impact- impact on people’s lives
  3. Feed the business model: Provide a business gain, ‘’it’s ok to make profit’’
  4. Leverage an ecosystem: Partnerships are essential to foster that change in order to entrench the initiative in the core of society.

Lucie concluded by saying that the shared value concept is intended to help us think about our business differently; how to be more patient centric and focused on the community in terms of investment within all the initiatives that are put forward.

As part of the second portion of the meeting, Lucie invited Brigitte Viel, Head of Communications at Shire Canada to share with the audience her top 5 key insights on shared value in the pharmaceutical sector. Shire was part of a shared value lab created back in February by Umalia which included Ubisoft, Saputo, Jefo and Industrielle Alliance with the main goal of creating an environment where discussion took place on the shared value concept and what it meant for each of the companies.

Brigitte’s key learnings

  1. Do your homework: First, scan & assess to make sure you have a complete view of all the things you are already doing in the community (philanthropy, partnerships, corporate social responsibility, etc.). Then diagnose: are there any gaps or opportunities within your reach? Where do you want your shared value project to have an impact?
  2. Engage your team: Bring them on board! Make them active participants in the process by holding information sessions, brainstorming, ideation sessions.
  3. Focus on the long-term: Like any beautiful garden, shared value projects need time to grow! Think in terms of years – and not weeks or months – to be able to fully reap the benefits of your joint efforts.
  4. Set clear goals: specific- measurable- attainable – relevant and time-based. This will help align all the partners involved and monitor progress. Making sure the project is a success is in everyone’s interest.
  5. Make the commitment and do it: You did your homework, all the stakeholders are aligned and you have a clear sense of where you’re going… then jump! And see where it takes you.

The evening finished with the speakers giving insightful answers to many questions from the audience which are outlined below:

Audience questions

  • How do we learn more about the concept of shared value; can you provide some guidance on the pre-read and what type of brainstorming we should do?
    • The pre-read should definitely include the HBR (Harvard Business review articles) which are a great start, many case studies and reference materials on health can also be found on As for the brainstorming, Lucie believes that especially in the beginning, strong guidance is needed because the thinking is so different; you need someone who can facilitate that thinking and guide you in the right direction. Brigitte Viel totally endorsed the need to have someone with the expertise to conduct the brainstorming sessions. Lucie added that Umalia does provide an introductory session which is meant for the leadership team or board of directors in order to share what shared value is and what it could mean for the company.
  • You provided examples of shared value in the pharma and food industry. Is shared value open to all types of industries such as finance, banking, insurance companies?
    • Some industries are easier than others. The fit is sometimes easier to find and this applies to Pharma, food and finance; however Umalia has done it with multiple industries, with small, medium and large organizations and in many different countries. It’s also important to mention that it can be done with smaller companies. (examples shared by Radio-Canada recently on Umalia partnerships)
  • Have you seen companies where the shared value is entrenched in their planning process, it’s now part of their DNA and culture?
    • Becoming a shared value company does not happen overnight; it can take many years. Some companies have started to embark in this process, certain part or brands of their business have started in this direction, however many other brands may not even have heard about it, and this is quite normal, transforming a company takes time.

Key takeaways:

  • Purpose and profit can and should go hand in hand, it makes sense, and it’s the right thing to do.
  • Creating shared value partnerships enhances competitiveness and differentiation.
  • The shared value is quite possible in the pharma industry; the right approach and methodology have to be put forward.


Jo-Ann Charland
Training Consultant and Medical Writer
Cell: 438-998-0498


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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