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SpirE-Journal 2013 Q1

CSR Communication – Is social media an enabler of CSR?

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CSR Communication - Is social media an enabler of CSR?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key ingredient of business in the 21st century, bringing vital benefits to brand building, employee retention and government relations. Organizations are starting to integrate CSR with social media to propel their brands forward. Is this the way of the future?

CSR Communication

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key ingredient of business in the 21st century, bringing vital benefits to brand building, employee retention and government relations. Organizations are starting to integrate CSR with social media to propel their brands forward. Is this the way of the future?

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, CSR is defined as “the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.”

Does any company avoid the embrace of CSR?
There is a direct correlation between Meaningful Brand Index scores and how attached consumers are to those brands.

In a recent study, 50,000 people in 14 countries were asked to identify the organizations they felt had the most meaningful CSR initiatives. The results of the study were then used to create “The Meaningful Brand Index” (MBi) – one that “uses consumer perception to compare and track the impact brands have on people’s lives”2. The study found a direct correlation between the brands’ MBi scores, and how attached consumers are to those brands. The results showed that “20% of the brands have a notable positive impact on our sense of well-being and quality of life,” and that “most people would not care if 70% of brands ceased to exist”.

According to another survey, there is a direct correlation between volunteer efforts and employee satisfaction. Focusing on millennial participants (aged between 21 and 35), the survey concluded that 52% of those who take part in their organizations’ volunteer and charity activities are more likely to feel very loyal towards their organization. It also showed that 51% of such participants are more likely to be very satisfied with their employers.

CSR communication – How does social media help in CSR efforts?

CSR communication is becoming an increasingly essential component of any marketing and business strategy.

Marketers are recognizing the importance of disseminating information pertaining to CSR in an appropriate and efficient manner. As such, many marketers are relying on social media platforms as communication channels. The advantage of social media is that it:

Provides ample scope for brand-building and engagement with customers;
Strengthens the bond between organizations and stakeholders, while increasing awareness of organizations and empowering stakeholders through engagement;
Encourages transparency when stories are shared about organizations’ achievements, which might encourage positive feedback and increase brand recall; and
Gives everyone – including organizations and individuals – a voice and makes it easier for one to share thoughts, stories and comments with a wide audience in real-time.

However, not all social media tools need to be utilized in CSR communication. The relevant tool needs to be identified with the organization’s stakeholders to execute an effective CSR communication strategy.

For example, a blog can be used to share CSR updates; Facebook to connect with customers; Flickr to share photos and YouTube to share videos of all CSR activities; and the use of LinkedIn to connect with business partners and suppliers.

Successful CSR communication via social media

As social media gives every individual a voice, organizations need to be prepared for both positive and negative comments streaming in from these platforms.

How organizations handle negative comments is important. Deleting such comments will only aggravate matters. Instead, organizations need to master the art of responding to the negative comments with tact, explaining the organization’s position and supporting it with facts.

When communicating CSR activities through social media, it is vital for organizations to remember to listen to stakeholders, understand their concerns, share your stories and engage with them in a transparent manner.

Some organizations have successfully leveraged social media platforms as their CSR communication channels.

NTUC FairPrice

NTUC FairPrice, the largest grocery retailer in Singapore, uses its blog and Facebook page to tell CSR stories. For example, one Facebook post may share the volunteer support and donations for a beneficiary, while a blog post talked about how the organization reduces energy consumption across its outlets island-wide.

In recognition for its efforts, the retail giant was awarded the Best Workplace Award presented at the International Singapore Compact CSR Summit 2012.

Molson Coors

Molson Coors is one of the top-tier global brewers in Canada. Over the years, it has taken advantage of social media to enhance its brand, by investing in programs to educate people about responsible drinking choices.

It reaches out to the community through its blog, Twitter and Facebook page. In 2012, a program of alcohol-responsibility training was initiated for employees, educating them with information on their products, the impact on their bodies and when to intervene where there is excessive drinking involved.

In addition, TaxiGuy, a program initiated by Molson Coors in 1998 to prevent drinking and driving in Canada, has helped more than 3 million Canadians reach home safely. In 2010, the website launched a free taxi application for iPhone, Blackberry and Android connecting drinkers to any taxi company across the country with a single touch.

The road ahead
100 major organizations have a blog, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube channel that is committed to sustainability.

According to the recent SMI-Wizness Social Media Sustainability Index 2011, more than 250 major organizations were using social media for communication. An estimated 100 of them have a blog, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube channel that is committed to sustainability.

Marketers should recognize that sound CSR communication is vital to the success of any CSR program. To this end, tapping on social media platforms to reach out to stakeholders in real-time is a key tool. Social media is increasingly becoming a platform to enable stakeholders to get an insider’s view of what companies are doing.

As more and more organizations vie for a piece of the social media pie, it is becoming essential to up the ante in CSR communication. Organizations need to go beyond the old-fashioned – posting updates, press releases and photographs on their websites – and embrace the latest innovations – such as uploading videos, games or mobile applications that actually enable stake-holders to do something good.

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