socially responsibility companies, while,at the same time, the emergence (andsubsequent prolieration) o social mediaplatorms like Twitter, blogs and socialnetworks has empowered the very sameconstituents to trumpet their opinions o these companies to vast audiences. Thus, i a company’s CR commitments inuence itsinvestment dollars, recruitment and reten-tion capabilities, and bottom-line results—and i the same company’s constituents candiscuss these commitments via social me-dia—then both are o paramount interest tothis company’s communication strategy.But CR and social media’s relationship issymbiotic or reasons beyond this sharedinterest; executives can use social mediaplatorms to communicate their CR initia-tives and, in turn, enhance their reputa-tions, as we will see by the examples pre-sented in the next section. But frst, thereis another similarity that corporate leadersmust understand: CR and social media can-not be presented as campaigns executedover a fnite period o time. They must in-stead be ongoing commitments that growalongside the organization with no “enddate” in sight.
Socializing Responsibility: Communicat-ing CR Initiatives via Online Platforms
Certainly there is more than enough data toprove CR and social media’s respective im-portance to businesses, but one must alsoconsider the reputational risks that emergerom misusing either activity to engage con-stituents. In terms o corporate responsibil-ity, that misuse is best described as “green-washing,” which, according to Wikipedia, is“the practice o companies disingenuouslyspinning their products and policies as en-vironmentally riendly.” Any CR eorts thatconstituents perceive as greenwashing willhave potentially devastating eects on thecompany’s reputation.In terms o executives’ misuse o social me-dia, the pitalls are less cut-and-dry. Onepossibility is being completely absent insocial media conversations, thus increas-ing the likelihood o missing brewing issuesthat inevitably develop into ull-blown cri-ses. Another option is using social mediachannels to push one-way corporate mes-sages out to constituents without listeningto their reactions. Finally, some executivesunintentionally misuse social media bycommunicating in various platorms beoretaking the time to identiy their constituentsand listen to their conversations.Simply put, corporate leaders must viewCR and social media as commitments, notcampaigns, and they must be prepared towalk the walk and talk the talk. Once theyare, the opportunities to communicate CRinitiatives via social media platorms areplentiul:
Online Annual Reports:
As the investorcommunity becomes more interested in so-cial responsibility—and as the regulatoryenvironment demands that more attentionbe paid to environmentally sound prac-tices—fnancial reporting is increasinglysynonymous with sustainability reporting.Plus, thanks to the Global Reporting Ini-tiative’s move to standardize the processo disclosing sustainability perormance,companies are becoming more proactivein communicating their CR eorts. Not sur-prisingly, they are doing so online.Much like annual reports, sustainabilityreports communicate fnancial data, per-ormance metrics, achieved objectives anduture goals. With social media, though,this communication can occur more thanonce a year. In act, those companies at theoreront o sustainability reporting main-tain robust Web sites dedicated to CR. BP’ssite, or example, categorizes inormationby topic (saety, climate change, alternativeenergy, etc.) or easy navigation, and thenpositions these issues in the context o larg-er trends. Plus, the site hosts a “Sustain-ability Worldwide Map” that allows usersto search by location, as well as a chartingtool or investors to analyze and flter databased on their specifc interests.Ford and Starbucks’ CR reporting eortsare also Web-centric, and both include a“materiality matrix,” in which inormationis organized according to its relevance toinvestors and its current or potential impacton the company.Social Networks: Social networking plat-orms like Facebook are ideal or organiz-ing and mobilizing communities aroundvarious causes. For example, WesternUnion launched its “Our World Gives”Facebook campaign in 2008, encouragingusers to support charities by rallying theirriends around various causes and associ-ated nonprofts, including American RedCross and UNICEF.Dell used Facebook to support a contest in2008, in which participants were asked tosubmit artwork on the page’s “wall” basedon the theme, “What does green mean toyou?” The campaign drew more than 7,000artwork submissions, and more than 1 mil-lion users voted or their avorites.
As the number o companies thatmaintain corporate blogs grows, so toodoes the number o dedicated CR blogs.Take McDonald’s: The company’s rostero blogs includes the “Values in PracticeBlog,” which hosts everything rom dis-cussion orums and CR-related news, tovideos and inormation surrounding Mc-Donald’s CR mission. The keys to its suc-cess—and the success o any CR-centriccorporate blog—are transparency com-
DELL USED FACEBOOK TOSUPPORT A CONTEST IN 2008,IN WHICH PARTICIPANTS WERE ASKED TO SUBMIT ARTWORK ONTHE PAGE’S “WALL” BASED ONTHE THEME, “WHAT DOES GREENMEAN TO YOU?” THE CAMPAIGNDREW MORE THAN 7,000 ARTWORK SUBMISSIONS, ANDMORE THAN 1 MILLION USERS VOTED FOR THEIR FAVORITES.
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