Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, foursquare, blogging, the social web. We no longer just communicate, we interact. Consumers are able to directly connect with and voice their opinions to brands not in a private conversation, but amongst the hundreds, thousands and possibly millions who are connected through the social web. No longer can brands hide behind the wall of private communication and continue to push their stakeholder inquiries, concerns, or problems aside. Brands must react, engage and build trust by interacting with their social communities - this means exposing your brand, the good, the bad and even the ugly. In the process, how can the wealth of information being generated by social media help us better understand sustainability value creation?
According to 2012 Cone Communications Corporate Social Return Trend Tracker, 84 percent of Americans hold companies accountable for producing and communicating the results of CSR commitments by going beyond their mission to robustly communicating progress against well-defined purpose. Some 40 percent go as far as to say that they will not purchase a company’s products or services if CSR results are not communicated. Companies that proactively share the details and results of their CSR efforts, rather than just their aspirations, will be rewarded with increased consumer trust and purchases, the report says. 86 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a company that reports its CSR results, and 82 percent say they are more likely to purchase a product that clearly demonstrates the results of the company’s CSR initiatives than one that does not.
However, despite this strong belief in CSR commitments and results, 63 percent of consumers admit to not knowing where to find such information. Using social media for sustainability, the post 5 Reasons Blogging and Social Media Builds Better Green Brands illustrates how corporate communications are changing. "A major component of any corporate sustainability plan isn’t so much how a company carries out those strategies but also how it communicates it to its many stakeholders. There is an emerging role of social media for stakeholder engagement and for businesses to communicate their broader corporate responsibility agenda."
[pagebreak]From a business perspective, the requirements to build and maintain a sustainable business today are quite different than they were just ten years ago. The triple bottom line, also known as people, planet, profit is recognized by sustainability professionals as the three pillars of sustainability. It is the process by which firms manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. Today, leading organizations are evaluating the economic, social and environmental impacts that will ultimately affect profitability. As such, green business practices are becoming more the norm, as companies both large and small realize the value of integrating business sustainability into their operations and business strategies. However, because sustainability concepts and definitions are still subject to interpretation and debate, the ‘active’ engagement and dialog with stakeholders cannot be overlooked when creating shared value. Specific to CSR communications and business sustainability, social media can aid in value creation in many ways:
The days of the controlled and scripted press release may be coming to an end. Effectively communicating business sustainability successes is becoming a more active dialog. Social media executed successfully can be a powerful vehicle to build sustainable business communications by engaging with stakeholders.
Julie Urlaub is the founder and managing partner of Taiga Company, a sustainability social media consulting firm, where she aids clients to powerfully engage in sustainability-related issues and stakeholder communications in the social space. She can be contacted at www.taigacompany.com | @taigacompany | Facebook/TaigaCompany