CSR Middle East, CSR dedicated platform with 3.555 corporate members in the Middle East.
Ann Charles is Founder and CEO of BRANDfog, an NYC-based company offering Social Media Branding and Corporate Social Responsibility Strategies for C-Suite Executives.
In December, I read a story about social scientists who believe that humans have evolved to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive. This was called “Survival of the Kindest.” The theory states that sympathy is our strongest human instinct, and helping others is critical to the survival of the whole species. These days, corporations are starting to have the same realization.
Thanks to a social media culture that reveres transparency and demands accountability, companies today are seen through the critical lens of the Triple Bottom Line: People, planet and profit. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) states that businesses should act as stewards of society, the environment, and the economy. The social media spotlight brings accolades and new business for companies that give back, while brands behaving badly are pilloried in online communities like Twitter and Facebook, followed by the mainstream press.
Creating a CSR strategy has become a primary challenge for CEOs. Fortunately, social media can be an invaluable resource for companies willing to commit to becoming better corporate citizens.
Here are 5 steps to develop a CSR culture using social media.
A CSR strategy begins with a long-term vision and commitment from the top of the executive food chain. The CEO’s vision should be shared through social media channels so supporters can engage with the brand, provide feedback, and become evangelists.
Jeff Swartz, CEO of Timberland is the embodiment of CSR leadership. As the CEO of his family’s business since 1998, Swartz has been a long time activist for social and environmental issues. Swartz leverages Twitter and other social channels to engage communities and rally support for social justice on many fronts.
It’s important to assess the needs of the communities where you do business to determine which social issues to address. Employees that live and work in the community know the areas of greatest need. Many companies provide assistance to neighborhood programs like school breakfasts, books for libraries, or food banks, and reap the community rewards. The work humanizes the brand while strengthening the community.
For more CSR ideas, search Twitter hashtags #CSR, #sustainability, and read Business Ethics, the Magazine of Corporate Responsibility. You can also follow CSR news on Twitter, leading CSR blogger David Connor and Social Giving pioneer John Wood from Room to Read.
Some companies leverage social media to encourage spontaneous and innovative ways to help others. Last month, Meg Garlinghouse, Senior Director of Yahoo For Good wrapped up a successful campaign calledRandom Acts of Kindness.
Users and Yahoo employees were asked to update their status with stories about helping others, which were then shared across the Yahoo network. The CSR campaign received over 300,000 status updates and global participation from 11 countries. Other companies showed their support for CSR by giving employees the time to participate in volunteerism. Patrick Vogt, Chairman and CEO of digital marketing technology company Datran Media, provided 3 additional days to employees specifically for volunteerism this year, for example.
Talk about what you are doing with CSR. CEOs can use social channels to tweet, blog and post updates about CSR initiatives. Make it a key topic at board meetings, employee meetings, press briefings, and trumpet it through all marketing channels. It’s critical to communicate CSR positions on your website to encourage brand enthusiasts to get involved. As Tim Sanders stated in Saving the World at Work, studies show that when you witness or hear about an act of compassion, you are more likely to emulate it.
The CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, Ben Verwaayen, communicates his vision for CSR on his website. “It is vital for all companies to act in a socially responsible manner and to be good corporate citizens. This involves more than ethical behavior; it means that all employees must become involved and demonstrate the company’s concern for society.”
As it turns out, doing good is good for business, and more companies are realizing the benefits of Socially Responsible Investments (SRIs).
According to the Social Investment Forum (SIF), a trade association advancing the practice of socially responsible investments, about two thirds of socially responsible mutual funds in the U.S. outperformed industry benchmarks during the 2009 economic downturn, most by significant margins.
Social scientists believe that we are wired to be kind. It would seem that they are right, especially in light of the recent outpouring of generosity to Haiti. In today’s world, admiration is bestowed upon companies that look beyond short-term financial goals to engage in long-term commitments for the betterment of society.
As John D. Rockefeller once said, “Think of giving not as a duty, but as a privilege.”