Social media has undeniably changed the corporate sustainability landscape as companies harness this technology for their sustainability programs. According to the SMI-Wizness Social Media Sustainability Index, the number of companies in its index that use social media to communicate sustainability has more than doubled in the last year. In 2010, the report found 120 of the 287 companies in its index engaged in social media through platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, but only 60 companies dedicated resources to the mission. In 2011, 250 major corporations engaged in sustainability communications through social media and 100 companies committed resources to that goal.
The companies trailblazing the way include General Electric, IBM, and Pepsico, all of which made the top 10 list on the index. IBM’s Smarter Planet is a website devoted to communicating its sustainability initiatives and uses compelling storytelling that showcases its work around the world in communities and cities. Just look at its Facebook likes to see how popular it has become – 230,952 and counting.
Other companies like General Electric are using social media to crowdsource ideas to find innovative solutions to sustainability dilemmas. GE created the Ecomagination Challenge to find clean energy ideas in America and the winners received $200 million capital investment by GE and its partners. They also developed a strong editorial team to produce content to encourage participation.
While many companies turn to traditional social media platforms for their sustainability strategy, newer platforms are proving to be equally effective tools for companies. Starbucks brought its BetaCup Challenge to the Jovoto community, a website that crowdsources ideas from the public, in order to find a sustainable solution to the coffee cup. The website Causes, which hosted the famous, viral “Kony video,” has also been used by companies like AT&T to engage the public in its sustainability effort.