I was recently wasquoted in a post by the brilliant Sherie Winston as saying that “Twitter has done as much for corporate responsibility as the great thought leaders through sheer accessibility,”. And in a linkedin conversation about CSR reporting, Cindy Mehallow, who has done wonderful work with PSEG on reporting, asked me why I think Twitter has done so much for CSR communications. So here's what I think Twitter's contribution to CSR and to CSR communications is all about:
Twitter makes CSR info accessible to more people more of the time. With hundreds of CSR and Sustainability and Green tweeps tweeting their CSR news items or other CSR interest items, the world cannot fail to be more aware of many new aspects of CSR and how it is evolving as we
Twitter IS CSR conversations. Of course, Facebook, LinkedIn, Justmeans, DevelopmentCrossing and many more networks offer conversation possibilities. But Twitter does it quicker, faster and more directly. Limiting to 140 characters forces you to choose what you want to say very carefully. Just look at some of the dialogues happening on Twitter around COP15, or human rights, or employee engagement. They may not have the richness of a Linkedin thread, but people are getting their points of view across. I believe this is changing the way people are talking and thinking about CSR.
Twitter brings CSR leaders closer . The wealth of twittering CSR celebs such as Ray Anderson of Interface (@RayCAnderson) , Jeff Swartz of Timberland ( @Timberland_Jeff) , Jeff Hollender of Seventh Generation ( @JeffHollender) , Kevin Moss of BT ( @KevinIMoss) , Richard Branson of , well, Richard Branson ( @richardbranson) , Fadi Ghandour of Aramex ( @fadig) Dave Stangis of Campbell Soup ( @dstangis) , and CSR thought leaders such as Noreena Hertz ( @NoreenaHertz) , Christine Arena ( @christinearena ) , Rosabeth Kanter ( @RosabethKanter ) Adam Werbach ( @adamwerbach ) , Joel Makower ( @makower) , and CSR organizations such as CERES ( @ceresnews), the GRI ( @GRI_Secretariat), make the possibility of conversing with these leading lights, understanding what's important to them, hearing their insights and following their example. This is what future CSR leaders aspire to and are inspired by. Equally, I am sure that the CSR-tweeting leaders are thereby exposed to quesions, feedback and reactions that that are uniquely twitterous, i.e. that they would otherwise have no access to. And this helps them build their own thoughts and positions and leadership.
Twitter stages CSR connections. People are meeting each other, creating partnerships, making deals, doing new things in the CSR space. Connections and actions that would never have been possible on slow networks such as Facebook or Linked in. Twitter is fast and furious, creating fast and furious changes in the way people are working together across country borders.
Twitter is just one big CSR conference. It is probably true to say that someone is tweeting from every single CSR conference or event, wherever it is happening in the world. So what would normally have been a closed meeting for the privilege of the privileged few is now an open newstream of insights from inspiring CSR folks for the accessibility-challenged many. This is helping to create greater interest in the CSR body of knowledge which is evolving as we blog.
Twitter is the absolute best source of CSR news. In addition to all the CSR news sites that tweet away such as @CSRWire, @GreenEconPost @2Sustain and more, i suspect that there is no news item anywhere on CSR that doesnt get tweeted, that is, noticed by a far greater community. Whether it be a latest video from a CSR conference, or a new social flavor from Ben and Jerry's, or a donation of $375,000 by Unilever to Feeding America, or human rights abuse in someone's supply chain, or a way to make your holiday gift benefit the world ( @iGiveTwice) ...it's tweeted. Now don't tell me that's not influencing the way Companies think and talk about CSR . Here are a few i just jinged:
Twitter is now core in CSR comms strategies. HP, Fedex, Microsoft , Intel and many more are tweeting their CSR updates. This is a tool to engage both internal and external audiences (us CSR folks call them stakeholders). Think back to a couple of years ago. What comms routes did companies have to spread their positive news and engage in conversation about it, with just about anyone?
Twitter is a CSR jobs recruitment platform. At least once a day a CSR job is posted on Twitter. Or should i say once an hour. Because it seems like that.
And, I saved the best for the last:
Twitter announces CSR reports. Every CSR report published is announced by someone somewhere on Twitter (oops, its me, more often than not) (haha) Often, highlights from the report such as ghg emissions reduction, or community invesment, or a CEO statement are tweeted as well. I think Twitter has become a platform for creating awareness of CSR reporting in a way which has never been achieved through press releases, websites, email, or RSS.
Note that I havent mentioned the way Twitter is used to promote brands, or the way it is used for customer service, or to announce new products and services. All these link to CSR as well, in one way or another.
All in all, Twitter is a CSR communications tool , more than anything we have ever had at our disposal in the past. So now, Cindy, you know what I meant. But I am glad you asked me to spell it out.
Anyway, I'm off now to send a few CSR tweets before my signal-to-noise ratio takes a nose-dive....
elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at: www.b-yond.biz/en