Social Media And Corporate Social Responsibility

social-media-corporate-social-responsibilityOver the past decade, social media has become part of our lives. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, the social web, are all means with which we communicate with each other. However, today we not only communicate, but we interact with each other over these platforms, thus making it the perfect ground for the creation and circulation of ideas.

The core principle upon which social media is based is collaboration and the creation of strong community. Since these values are also important for practicing sustainability it is a fertile ground for companies to use as a way to communicate sustainability and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

This was reflected in this year’s SXSW Eco conference. Various innovators, entrepreneurs, academics, NGOs and executives from major companies gathered together to discuss sustainability. At the end of the discussions, the general consensus was that social media holds the key to shaping a sustainable future.

Here are the main benefits of using social media as a platform for sustainability and CSR initiatives.

Social media and Corporate Social Responsibility

Social media create a transparent stream of information and conversation, enabling all stakeholders to be part of decisions. Information is shared across a two way stream enabling companies to communicate their CSR initiatives and stakeholders to engage and provide immediate feedback. For example:

  • Social media can give general employees, customers and other stakeholders the opportunity to present concepts, designs and ideas for the execution for new sustainable initiatives. Crowd sourcing of ideas opens up a plethora of opportunities that would just not be possible within the traditional vacuum of the CSR department. General Electric have used this characteristic of social media to great effect through their Ecomagination corporate initiative
  • Social media allows customers and other stakeholders to discuss their experiences, satisfaction or dissatisfaction, revealing weakness in process, communication and implementation of CSR initiatives. Subject to stakeholder reviews, companies can reinvent their initiatives and respond directly to feedback

Social media and its potential to undermine CSR initiatives

Of course the two way flow of information can be quite daunting for a company. The opportunity for negative information to spread across social networks is profound. Corporate messaging becomes hard to control in a world guided by social media principles. Reputational and brand impact can be significant!

However, avoiding engagement on social media is not the answer. Social media has democratised information. Everyone now has a voice and a platform to shout from. Bad information will find its way onto the web no matter how hard a company fights to control its corporate messaging.

The trick is to use social media to be as transparent and genuine.

In conclusion

In the recent years, social media has provided a new ground for free speech and a new form of democracy, enabling every person with Internet access to express their opinion, promoting ideas and events, commenting on the good and bad, and informing people around the globe. Using social media intelligently enriches a company’s potential to engage in meaningful conversation with stakeholders. And hence, making the right use of such a powerful tool may indeed be the key to shaping a sustainable future.

Recommended Reading
The internet has totally revolutionized the practice of public relations. This revolution has not only affected the way PR professionals communicate but has changed the nature of communication itself. This thoroughly revised, second edition of Online Public Relations shows readers how to use this potent and energizing medium intelligently and effectively. Online Public Relations: A Practical Guide to Developing an Online Strategy in the World of Social Media (PR In Practice)

About the Author Charles El-Zeind

Charles El-Zeind is passionate about communicating environmental issues such as climate change and sustainability. Charles is currently involved in a grassroots community project with the Fiveways and Hollingdean Transition Network and writes regularly for the Sustainable Business Toolkit. He holds a bachelor degree from the University of Brighton in Environment and Media Studies.

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1 comment
Valerie says October 23, 2012

Thanks for the great post! I think you make an important point in showing how the interactivity of social media allows for greater participation and communication around CSR initiatives. Social media can also allow companies to track their progress through metrics, make CSR fun through game elements and competition, and provide a space for employees to encourage each other.

At earthbongo, we’ve put together a collection of resources on CSR, sustainability, social media, and more. Check it out here: https://earthbongo.com/csr/resources

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