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SMI Special Report – Social Media and Sustainability, The Perfect Match?

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SMI Special Report – Social Media and Sustainability, The Perfect Match?

The Social Media Influence (SMI) recently published a special report linking Social Media and Sustainability and presenting “how the world’s most sustainable companies are communicating their green convictions and deeds through social media”. As the collaborative platform for Sustainable Leaders, Wizness wanted to share the results of this relevant and exciting study. What are the key findings? Which companies use social media to communicate their CSR? How do they operate? Discover the insights of the “Social Media Sustainability Index” and learn social media best practices from the most sustainable companies worldwide.

Rapport SMI 2010

SMI’s report is based on the fact that today sustainability and social media are two major trends impacting companies’ internal and external communication. “The philosophies of social media and sustainability have a great deal in common. Both are built on the pillars of transparency, ethics and innovation”, explains the report, insinuating that social media and sustainability make “the perfect match”.

But after having analyzed the 287 companies of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the report reveals a surprising paradox: even if 85% of them are not social media neophytes and use these new channels for other communications, very few sustainable companies are using social media to actually discuss green projects or initiatives.. In fact, “fewer than 50% of the world’s most sustainable companies are using social media to communicate their corporate and social responsibility accomplishments and just 25% have a dedicated social media sustainability channel or advocate”. In other words: “58% of the 287 companies have no social media conduit whatsoever for discussing sustainability”.

But why are these sustainable leaders “social media mute” when it comes to one of their main competitive advantages? Why is sustainability left behind? According to SMI, the reason seems to be the “traditional niche role that sustainability plays within organizations”:

“All large companies consider sustainability or CSR communications a necessary function but they tend to direct their communication resources towards very targeted stakeholders, be their shareholders, sustainability watchdogs and NGOs, plus the green business press”.

To communicate to these stakeholders, companies prefer to publish PDF corporate reports or micro sites dedicated to Sustainability and CSR. Very few companies have understood that new social tools have “increased the audience interested in sustainability news and information”. “The mass general public has never been the target audience and, as such, only a handful of the companies we surveyed make any effort to “release” their CR report information to the online world through social media”. “Those companies that embrace this publishing power will be most successful at communicating exactly why they are sustainable”.

Of the companies that due utilize social media as an avenue for CR Reporting, the majority come from the Technology & Consumers Goods sectors, while the Oil & Gas sector is still under represented. These companies generally use 3 main social media communication paths, which are:

1. Ongoing Social Media Publishing. Dell, Starbucks or Nokia have for instance created social media platforms dedicated to discussing sustainability, such as blogs, facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

2. Social Media Sustainability Campaigns. Pepsi, GE, and Kimberly Clark have created campaigns to raise awareness about sustainability issues: the Pepsi Refresh Project and GE’s Ecomagination Challenge are real and innovative successful examples of social media sustainability marketing.

3. Corporate Reporting: Dell, Nestle and AMD “repackaged their CR reports for the wider online public”. YouTube channels, Flickr pages, regular online updates were one of the options they chose.

Best-practices from the top leading companies include reports websites, Youtube Satellite platforms, informative blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook pages and dedicated social media communities. If you want to get the list of the 100 leading green accounts on Twitter, including the ones mentioned above, don’t hesitate to follow Wizness on Twitter.

Rajesh Chhabara, influencial blogger and Asia Editor for Ethical Corporation, already noticed some changes in CSR online reporting: “Some companies have taken the sustainability conversation to the next level using social media and other web tools. […] Interaction with external stakeholders helps to understand what external parties want to know about the company”.

The next step for CSR professionals is to “realize that they have to reach a larger and more engaged community than the niche sustainability stakeholders they currently publish for”. This is one of the reasons Wizness is such a ground-breaking tool: because its vision is to provide a place where organizations can communicate and engage their stakeholders about their sustainable performance. By enabling a real dialogue around key sustainability challenges, Wizness serves as the bridge between Social Media and Sustainability.

The Social Media Influence (SMI) is a partnership between Custom Communication and Screen Events which provides social media intelligence and analysis for business professionals.

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