corporate social responsibility social mediaSocial media has begun to play a key role in how companies shape their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and present themselves as good corporate citizens. The standard for CSR is being redefined and is evolving as a driver of innovation. The bottom line is now three-fold, and is centered around people, planet, and profit. As business leaders strive to build more sustainable and socially responsible entities, formal social media strategies are becoming paramount.

by Melissa Jun Rowley, Follow Melissa on Twitter @melissarowley.  Read Melissa’s Blog.

A cultural and corporate shift is taking place in the world. The result of things like the current economic climate and recognition of global climate change, society is starting to push past awareness and into action. As this transition takes hold, companies are evolving from their reactive states, and moving toward more pro-active approaches. Social media has begun to play a key role in how companies shape their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and present themselves as good corporate citizens.

Until recently, corporate social responsibility among businesses has revolved around risk mitigation and self-regulation. Instilled to make sure companies would abide by the law and perform ethically, CSR has focused predominantly on issues of overtime in factories and sexual harassment.

Today, CSR functions as more than just a set of guidelines to keep companies out of trouble. Because the end goal for corporations has risen above simply selling a product or service, the standard for CSR is being redefined and is evolving as a driver of innovation. The bottom line is now three-fold, and is centered around people, planet, and profit. As business leaders strive to build more sustainable and socially responsible entities, formal social media strategies are becoming paramount.

Panelists at the Justmeans Social Media for Sustainability conference, which was held in San Francisco a while back, offered some insights on how social media can aid companies in being more socially responsible.


1. Getting to Know Your Constituents

There was a time when companies issued press releases, and operated under the impression that they controlled the message of their brand. Those days are gone. Today, the brand image is linked to the thoughts and conversations of a company’s consumers. Therefore, businesses must get to know their constituents.

By sparking authentic and transparent conversations via social media, companies are can learn what their stakeholders expect of them. Absolute transparency, no holds barred, is key.

Entrepreneur, Jeffrey Hollender, the Executive Chairperson of the green products company Seventh Generation, says most corporations are not nearly transparent enough. “It’s a mistake for companies to think that they cannot tell the truth and hide anything they do,” said Hollender. “Whether it’s a customer, or an employee, or a reporter, someone will disclose a corporation’s dirty little secrets.”

2. Influencing Customers as Citizens

In this age of digital democracy, social media allows companies to influence and view the behavior of their customers after a product or service is bought. In the same vein, more and more consumers are self-identifying themselves as individuals who want to continue ongoing relationships with a business or brand.

The dialogue exchanged between customers and companies can be highly beneficial for both sides, and build and strengthen a sense of community, which is the fundamental purpose of social media. When consumers are treated as citizens, they can do everything from helping a company amplify its voice, to voting on the style of a new product, to improving a service.


Hollender says Seventh Generation uses social media to involve the company’s community members with the creation and branding of new products. “We communicate with our people about everything from how they can help us magnify our green message, to what scent we should choose for our next eco-friendly laundry detergent,” said Hollender.

3. Getting Your Good Work Out There

A growing number of businesses are leveraging social media to trigger a viral chain reaction of interest around the socially responsible work they’re doing. More and more companies are talking with customers and stakeholders about causes of interest to them, and about how they can work together to have a positive impact on the world.

intel facebook

Chip giant Intel is using social media to improve its earth-friendly consciousness, and to engage with other parts of the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector and consumers. Intel’s Director of Corporate Responsibility, Michael Jacobson, says his department takes advantage of social media by marketing the positive ways Intel is working to minimize its global carbon emissions, as well as the entire industry’s.

“There was a time when we only focused on reducing own environmental footprint,” said Jacobson. “Today, we look for ways to help reduce CO2 emissions across the board, and we do that by talking with our stakeholders individually through social media.

Online networking can help significantly improve a brand’s image externally, as well as boost company morale, which is what Nike is focusing on currently. The shoe giant recently launched an internal social media network called the We Portal, which serves as a platform for employees to discuss ways they can socially engage with one another, and how the company can be more sustainable.

Nike’s Digital Advocacy Director Laura Adams says social media has become instrumental in Nike’s evolution as a brand and as a socially responsible and more sustainable enterprise. “At the end of the day, it’s the people out doing work that are going to get us to achieve our goals,” said Adams.

What do you think is the most effective social media platform?

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This post originally appeared on Mashable

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Author: Melissa Rowley (1 Articles)

Melissa Jun Rowley is a television and online journalist who has covered business news from the New York Stock Exchange for CNN Business News, red carpet glamour from the Oscars for CNN Entertainment, and social action movements for Causecast and Mashable. She has also produced and reported for Associated Press Television News, AMC, TV Guide Channel, E! Entertainment and TechTV. Melissa is currently a Cause Correspondent for She is the creator and host of the social good web series “Good and Ready,” which features celebrities, brands, and non-profits coming together for social good. She also co-produces and co-hosts the talk show with a twist, “In Bed With…,” on Mingle Media TV. Outside of her media making endeavors, Melissa serves as founding member of the women's philanthropic group The Leap Foundation, and also supports MASC, Multiracial Americans of Southern California and Life Rolls On. Follow her on Twitter @melissarowley. Read Melissa's Blog.

  • Romero Cavalcanti


    Great article and relevant.

    The social web in general is having a broad impact on the way people find information, share information, make decisions and interact on both an individual level and with organizations.

    CSR is the integration of business operations and values, whereby the interests of all stakeholders including investors, customers, employees, the community and the environment are reflected in the company’s policies and actions.

    Ready for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Social Media Audits? Have verifiable, auditable data to support the claims of green house gas reduction activity within your company?

  • Marlene

    Great article. Melissa you do a great job of addressing the issues companies should focus on when pushing their sustainability messages out to their community of employees, consumers and society at large.

    There is also the ‘pull’ aspect, companies like are allowing that same community to use social media to share with companies and each other what they have experienced about the companies’ CSR intiatives and environmental practices generally.

    Romero, this speaks to your point. Maybe not quite CSR social media audit – but close.


  • Aron Horvath

    Very important point you make Melissa, which resonates well with what Hungarian media gurus and editors of on- and offline news wires said in a conference in March 2010: corporate press releases and press conferences are dead.

    Nevertheless, in Hungary society and companies are only learning how to use this tool. In April a director of the biggest local cum multinational telco told me that they are still wondering whether 5-6000 followers are worth having a social media strategy and at least one full time employee hooked on conversations… I think pro-activity also means anticipating change, so it is definitely worth it, because social media may reach – at least in our small country – a narrower group of people, but these will not only be targeted by the messages, but – excuse the term – ‘hit’ each time by announcements, discussions.

    I’m always amazed to see iconic international journalists having hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, when 10.000 likes are a great achievement for anyone and anything in Hungary.