How Companies Should Use Social Media for Better Corporate Social Responsibility

In the backdrop of the Indian government’s plan to make Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spend mandatory under the proposed Companies Bill 2009, WITS ZEN tries to explore the possibilities of meeting the parameters of CSR through social media. However, WITS ZEN excludes financial implications of the proposed Bill on Indian companies, which, to them, is of immediate concern.

The World Business Council defines CSR as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large”. Accordingly, corporate responsibility involves a commitment by a company to “manage its role in society as a producer, employer, marketer, customer and a citizen in a responsible and suitable manner”.

Adoption of Social Media by Indian Companies

Indian companies, keeping pace with the global trend, have started integrating social media and addressing consumers using social media. These trends and many more insights were reflected in the India Social Media Report Edition 2 by Blogworks in association with NM Incite (A Nielsen McKinsey Company):

CSR and Social Media

As a matter of fact, it seems that adoption of social media is a definite step towards maintaining transparency and customer-centric approach by companies, which, in turn, will adhere to and influence the core values of CSR.  So, if adopted properly, companies will harness most from CSR via social media.

To understand the core values of CSR, we need to look at the Carroll’s CSR Pyramid, which is probably the most well-known model of CSR. In 1991, Carroll presented his CSR model as a pyramid, and suggested that although the components are not mutually exclusive, it “helps the manager to see that the different types of obligations are in constant tension with one another”.

According to Professor Archie B. Carroll, “Corporate social responsibility involves the conduct of a business so that it is economically profitable, law abiding, ethical and socially supportive. To be socially responsible then means that profitability and obedience to the law are foremost conditions when discussing the firm’s ethics and the extent to which it supports the society in which it exists with contributions of money, time and talent.”

Carroll’s CSR model contains four categories of corporate responsibility organized from most to least important. According to Carroll, the “history of business suggests an early emphasis on the economic and then legal aspects and a later concern for the ethical and discretionary aspects”. Economic obligations are, therefore, seen to be moderated by ethical responsibilities or social expectations and norms. Discretionary responsibilities go beyond ethical responsibilities and include philanthropic measures. Read “REVISITING CARROLL’S CSR PYRAMID” to get more about Carroll’s CSR concept.

Using Carroll’s CSR Pyramid as a framework for descriptive analysis, WITS ZEN feels just like adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility strategies, social media strategies too are driven by very similar ideas of building competitive advantage through transparency, advocacy, stakeholder’s engagement, adding value to the communities and the empowerment of communities.

Social Media Influence on CSR Core Values

“When analyzing CSR foundations it becomes quite clear that social media has a potential to influence most of CSR core values. Even though, most of the social media strategies today still concentrate only on “Philanthropic” or “Social contribution” activities and the idea of building brand through adding value to the consumer. Which is brilliant and wasn’t really possible to many companies just 5 years ago, but social media has much more potential. Social media can be the enabler of different CSR strategies and go beyond marketing by adding value to different value chain activities,” says Giedrius Ivanauskas in his article “Is Social Media Adoption the New Quality Standard of Successful Company?” published in Social Media Today.

One very apt example of how social media can ensure better corporate social responsibility has been reflected in the  Greenpeace Youtube Campaign against Nestle.

This social media campaign by Greenpeace forced “Nestle to come up with such a comprehensive ‘zero deforestation’ policy so quickly.  Nestlé have developed a plan which will identify and remove any companies in their supply chain with links to deforestation so their products will have “no deforestation footprint“.”

Similarly, the campaign against BP on Twitter (#oilspill) which made its social media strategies to save BP reputation, however, BP failed miserably. These two incidences and similar others substantiate the fact that social media and CSR  help towards creating transparency and  authenticity, and developing responsible , ethical and customer-centric approach in companies. As business leaders strive to build more sustainable and socially responsible entities, formal social media strategies are becoming paramount. Formal social media strategies of companies help them ensuring CSR by letting them know their constituents, influencing customers as citizens, and getting their good work out in public.

In summary, WITS ZEN feels that Corporate Social Responsibility coupled with Social media ensures increased accountability and open up a new chapter of opportunity for companies, making them transparent, customer centric and accessible company.

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