Shared value comes alive

 Shared value comes alive

The V&A Waterfront is a mixed-use, nearly 53-hectare neighbourhood that is home to independent retailers and global retail brands; commercial properties, designers and artists and entrepreneurs; residential accommodation and hospitality enterprises; and a significant volume of ocean-related businesses. It is a working harbour which is a regular stopover also for cruise-liners, and the combination of live/work/play in glorious surroundings has made it a beloved landmark. More than 25 000 people live or come to work daily at the Waterfront.

It’s also the premier tourist destination in Africa, with upwards of 26 million visitors each year.

Through its activities, the Waterfront’s contribution to the economy is significant: in the most recent Economic Impact Assessment (2020), this contribution was quantified as a R10,7bn contribution to GDP. Since it was established in 2002, its cumulative contribution to GDP has been R96bn.

By any standards, the Waterfront is successful. However, it is also conscious of the social and environmental responsibilities that, for any ethical company, follow and feed into commercial success. It is also mindful that the fast-changing, complex nature of our operating environment requires all businesses constantly to evolve their strategic positioning to remain relevant

In early 2019, therefore, it formalised what had been its de facto operating model: the V&A Waterfront now defines itself as a Shared Value Ecosystem Company.

What is shared value?

Shared value is a business strategy originally co-created by Harvard Business School professors Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. It came after the global financial crisis, when capitalism and the reputation of business were under siege. Shared value made the radical proposition that corporate success and improved social and environmental conditions are in fact inherently linked. It’s the very opposite of that old principle that “the winner takes all”. Instead, it requires businesses to leverage their resources and innovation to create solutions to society’s most pressing issues. In doing so, they make their own businesses more sustainable and resilient.

In adopting its Shared Value Ecosystem strategy, the Waterfront was addressing its license to operate, both now and into an increasingly volatile future. In essence, the strategy is about managing and connecting the neighbourhood and its societal stakeholders for the benefit of all.

Success is measured along the parameters of additional effort and additional value. Additional value for the Waterfront, its partners, tenants and other stakeholders is viewed as a value chain from indirect value to direct value. Indirect value represents the drivers of broader value.

The following additional value is intended:

  • Jobs and enterprises created, supported and/or made more resilient
  • Maintained or increased contribution to GDP
  • Failures in the food value chain addressed with a view to improving that which is within our power
  • Potential solutions relating to water, waste, sewage, energy and climate developed and tested
  • Solutions shared
  • Inclusivity in an exclusive space tested and pioneered – access and sense of belonging
  • Inspiration, and influencing others

How the strategy shows up: 5 examples

What makes the Waterfront unique is the fact that it is a private space effectively being run as a public one, and that many of the challenges faced by cities globally show up in on the precinct. It is thus able, in effect, to be a “safe” laboratory for testing and refining innovations and prototypes prior to launching them into the world. In principle, the Waterfront’s efforts in this regard conform to Creative Commons, i.e. the learnings are shared with all.

The initial focus areas are the food system, the ocean economy and – underlying both of these – the imperative of supporting SMMEs. In all instances, projects and initiatives are assessed through the lenses of social, business and environmental sustainability; inclusivity; and opportunity. There are also two structural initiatives which are useful illustrations of the strategy: SOLVE@Waterfront and Maker’s Landing.


The Waterfront is committed to using the structural break provided by Covid-19 to build back better. Its commitment is reinforced by the establishment of SOLVE@Waterfront.

SOLVE’s mandate is twofold:

  • To focus and amplify the Shared Value that flows from the Waterfront’s ecosystem strategy
  • To convene multi-stakeholder partnerships to wrestle with the systemic issues facing city-making in the current era, providing inspirational examples and contributing to the knowledge the world needs

SOLVE is already clustering innovation and other relevant partners around specific city-making issues, and is able to facilitate innovation labs, work with partners to test solutions and to develop and share thought leadership, conduct research and consult to replicate impact.

Makers Landing: An entrepreneur/SMME support space

In November 2020 Makers Landing launched at the Cruise Terminal. At the heart of Maker’s Landing is a Kitchen Incubator, where industry comes together with innovators to foster new businesses, and demystify the barriers to entry to the food sector that foil so many good foodprenuers.

The Incubator has its roots in the understanding that while food is one of the threads that bind us, it’s a tough business to get into. It’s competitive, price-sensitive, and – understandably – bedevilled with issues such as health and safety compliance. The other side of the story is that there are many delicious, innovative and sought-after goodies being cooked up in home kitchens for friends-and-family and closed-circle consumption – goodies that the rest of the world will never see. How can we help those who would like to, to scale and create viable businesses out of their kitchen passion?

The Incubator Programme is designed to do just that: it is a curated development programme with a rigorous curriculum, access to mentors and funding. It is supported by a shared industrial kitchen space, where incubatees and others may produce food in certified conditions with top-class tools (like blast chillers and vacuum packers) without paying the crippling overheads associated with these facilities. It is also supported by an events space, and a pop-up market.

The intention with Makers Landing is to support entrepreneurs and SMMEs; and to make a real difference, one plate at a time.

The food system

The world’s food system is broken. That’s one of the reasons food is one of the first Shared Values focus areas. See our food page for insights into our thinking and the work we do.

The ocean economy

The founding philosophy of the Waterfront was to connect the people of Cape Town with the sea, and so it’s natural that the oceans, threatened as they are by thoughtless human behaviour, is another focus area. See our Ocean Cluster page for insights into our thinking and the work we do.

Support for entrepreneurs & small businesses

There is only one solution to South Africa’s devastating, society-breaking unemployment figures: more jobs. Those jobs will have to come from entrepreneurs, and small- and medium-sized enterprises. See our SMME page for insights into our thinking and practice.