Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility

Credit: Industry Player
Credit: Acton Institute Power Blog

What is Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR?

Here's Wikipedia's Answer: 
"("CSR" for short, and also called corporate conscience, citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business[1]) is a form of corporateself-regulation integrated into a business modelCSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company's actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere."

Last night I went to a Meetup titled "Social Media to Engage Stakeholders (on Sustainability & CSR)" (click on link for Meetup Website) at Green Spaces, in downtown Manhattan. The title sure is a mouthful, but the general idea was quite simple - How does social media play into Corporate Social Responsibility? 

The panel was moderated by Erica Grigg (CMO at Carbon Outreach). Some of the points the panelists made are below:

Susan Arnot Heaney (Director of Corporate Responsibility at Avon Products, Inc.)

  • You could be doing the best thing in the world, but if no one knows, it doesn't matter.
  • You have to get the word out, without seeming like you're tooting your own horn.
  • There are rules that state that a company must tell the public about their CSR actions before they publish them to a research or ranking organization.
  • 5 Points of CSR
    1. Share don't sell, educate
    2. Listen, conversation should be a dialogue, not a monologue
    3. Clear plans
    4. Start internally
    5. Be painfully honest

Cary Krosinsky (Senior Vice President at Trucost in North America)
  • Companies can use CSR as an investing tool.
  • He also mentioned that sometimes social and environmental factors can collide, citing one specific example of a company that provided energy to an area in need; however, the energy came from coal. I have to rebut his statement - being more on the environmental side of things, I don't think this collision is really possible - sustainable options are the only ones that should be set up. Although I do not know the backstory of the situation he mentioned, it seems like a better company to support would be one setting up solar panels or wind turbines in the needy area. Coal will probably ultimately create more problems for the community.

Susan McPherson (SVP of Fenton Communications)

Aman Singh (Vault.com's Senior Editor, Corporate Responsibility and author of Vault's CSR blog, In Good Company)
  • When the 18-25 year old age group is getting the message, then you know your PR is working
General Comments:

  • What can be considered successful marketing and CSR? --> It is often hard to measure success. With Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media involved, it's often difficult to distinguish the good from the bad feedback. Hashtags can be helpful.
  • Where should the CSR person/people in a company work? 
    • In PR? Can often seem like "greenwashing."
    • As an outside Consultancy? Often too removed.
    • Next to the CEO's office? This can really make sure that CSR is in the DNA of the company, but sometimes isn't the best solution. 
    • In HR? 
  • Social media is emotional not rational 
  • It's no longer just companies choosing whether or not to engage in CSR, but social media allows the people to challenge the companies.
  • Examples of successful campaigns: Chase Community Challenge, Pepsi Refresh Project
  • Examples of unsuccessful campaigns: Kenneth Cole, Groupon's superbowl commercial

Links / Terms Mentioned: 
Climate Counts website: "We score the world's largest companies on their climate impact to spur corporate climate responsibility and conscious consumption. Our goal is to motivate deeper awareness among consumers — that the issue of climate change demands their attention, and that they have the power to support companies that take climate change seriously and avoid those that don't." More about Climate Counts
Crowd Sourcing (wikipedia definition): "is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call."
Forum for the Future: (mentioned by Helen) "Most organisations now recognise that global challenges like climate change, food and energy security and population growth will mean big changes for the way they operate. Forum for the Future’s role is to help them find their way to a sustainable and successful future." More about Forum for the Future
Social Mention:  Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. More about Social Mention
Radian6: "Radian6’s social media monitoring software helps businesses listen, measure and engage in conversations across the social web. Radian6’s software platform tracks mentions across over 150 million social media sites and sources. Clients explore real-time results on an interactive dashboard that provides meaningful and actionable insights for their business, and act on these insights using Radian6’s Engagement Console." More about Radian6
Quora: "A continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it."
Hello Green Tomorrow: Avon's foundation to help save the Atlantic Rainforest.
Twestival: "Twestival® (or Twitter Festival) uses social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Twestival is the largest global grassroots social media fundraising initiative to date. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. All local events are organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of all ticket sales and donations go direct to projects." More about Twestival
Web MD vs. Mayo Clinic NY Times Article
Call2Action (Charlotte Rademaekers - Co-Founder and CEO): Mission: "Call2Action provides the go-to widget for any online cause campaign. We are dedicated to furthering our partners’ goals through raising awareness, driving engagement, and building community. We are committed to ensuring our technology is simple to use, comprehensive in scope, and seamlessly integrated with leading industry applications.
We believe a good business is a responsible business— fiscally, environmentally, socially, and ethically, and endeavor to lead by example. We practice collaboration, innovation, and celebration, and believe in technology as a tool to help drive positive change." 
Kenneth Cole: Here is a SFist article summing up their recent infamous tweet. 
Groupon Superbowl Commercial: Groupon explains super bowl ads in CNN article.

Some questions for further discussion:

  1. What goes into choosing a successful CSR campaign?
  2. How do you think the CSR and Social Media fields with continue to advance in the upcoming years? 

Green Spaces NY is a unique company with a great purpose:
"Our vision is to forward the sustainability globally through widespread local hubs that cultivate social entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers alike. We have coworking spaces in New York and Colorado." -About Page

Disclaimer: In writing the post above, I did not intend to plagiarize, misstate or infringe on any copyright or trademark laws. 

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