Friday, November 19, 2010

The New CSR Social Media Index. Essential Reading

The big news this week is the publication of the Social Media Sustainability Index. It has a short subtitle: "An essential guide to how the world's most sustainable companies are communicating their green convictions and deeds through social media". Haha. Real short, right ? But this new Index  is a delight. It's well researched, well written and quite illuminating. I love it! (I don't usually go overboard with the superlatives, being a British-born restrained sort of type, but I really do like this index which combines two of my favourite worlds - CSR and Social Media). Let's dive in:

Commissioned by SMI,  and authored by Matthew Yeomans of Custom Communications, an experienced business and environmental journalist, the report provides an overview of "The changing world of sustainability communications", a useful series of tips on the Do's and Don'ts of CSR in Social Media for optimum reputation management and  a list of Green Twitterati from the media, consultants (including yours truly and most of my other faves), companies, NGO's and academia/politics. This is a #FollowFriday list if ever I have seen one. The report continues with an overview of Sustainability Social Media elements such as online publishing of sustainability information, campaigns and reporting, showing how companies are currently leveraging these channels. Then comes a list of 15 companies "to watch", those who demonstrate best Sust-Soc-Med practices. AMD, Allianz and Dell are at the top of the list. This concludes the report narrative. The remainder of the report is the result of a detailed analysis of the way companies are using SocMed, providing a matrix showing each comany's Sust-Soc-Med activity, sector by sector. There are 10 sectors (sector leaders in brackets) :
  1. Basic Materials (Alcoa)
  2. Consumer Goods (Ford)
  3. Consumer Services (Starbucks)
  4. Financials (BBVA)
  5. Healthcare (Novartis)
  6. Industrials (GE)
  7. Oil&Gas (ENI)
  8. Technology (IBM)
  9. Telecoms (Telefonica)
  10. Uilities (PG&E)

As with any index of this nature, what is of most interest, serving to establish credibility, is the methodoloy used to perform the analysis. Here the Sust-Doc-Med-Index is quite clear: each company (using the North America and Europe DJSI list of 287 companies) has the possibility of scoring up to 100. Marks were given for how actively companies were in using social media for sustainability, how creative they were and how accessible their stuff is. This is how it goes:

If companies had a social media channel - blog, twitter account, YouTube channel - devoted to CSR then they got 40 points. (This is a "dedicated" social media channel)

If companies used a general corporate social media channel to sometimes discuss CSR then they got 30 points.


If companies were also running a social media campaign dedicated to a CSR cause (for example,  Pepsi Refresh ) then they got another 20 points.

If companies were opening up their social media channel to comments and conversation then they got 10 points.

If companies were making their Sustainability Report accessible using social media they got 10 points.

Finally, companies were ranked on how creative they were in conveying sustainability through social media (storytelling, creative ideas) with a score of 1 - 20. This is the only part of the methodology which requires an assessment and a differentiated  rather than an absolute score for the elements described above. Getting a full 100 points therefore is possible only if companies are really really creative, as judged by the analyst. This is a clear, logical methodology which makes for good credibility of the ranking results. No companies scored a full 100, but a few came very close with GE, Starbucks, IBM, Ford and Dell all earning 95 points or more.

A few quick facts from the analysis:

85% of companies use social media as some part of their communications or PR portfolio.

All 3 companies in the Telecommunications sector and 10 out of 13 companies in the Technology sector have blogs, but NONE of the companies in the Basic Materials, Health Care or Oil and Gas sectors have blogs.

The vast majority of Consumer Goods companies have Twitter accounts,  Facebook pages and You Tube channels.

Technology was by far the most engaging sector for the author of this report. He found that the US tech companies all have dedicated social media sustainability communication channels. Only 4 companies out of the 25 surveyed in the Oil and Gas sector use Social Media.

5 of the top 10 scoring companies are in the consumer facing sectors: Ford, Starbucks, Puma, Pepsico and Svenska Cellulosa. err wait. Svenska Cellulosa ? Had to take a look at that. Here is their website. The first things that stands out on their sustainability section is a survey ...but when I clicked on "Take the survey" I ended up in a Google Docs page with no survey. However, despite the fact that this company doesn't blog or tweet, they do do Facebook and YouTube.

Nestle would have scored higher were it not for their now infamous Facebook blunder, which lost them 40 points. If they had been a little more prudent, they might have just nudge into the top 20.

Matthew Yeomans  told me about Sust-Soc-Med:
Companies that make best use of social media for CSR communications understand that online communities care about sustainability and, as companies, they are interested in the input of all their stakeholders. What's more, they understand that social media allows the smart companies to show how they can be useful to society, allowing them to walk the walk rather than just talking about how sustainable they are.

But be warned, says the report, "social media communities are notoriously quick to spot fakery and dismantle corporate spin. The companies that try to hoodwink the public or inflate their claims of sustainability using social media will be found out very quickly".

To round off, CSR and Social Media need to be on the same page. As a route to engagement, dialogue and  building reputation, the power of Social Media is huge. Companies who think this through well, and execute well, will gain immeasurable benefits. Perhaps many companies shy away from the Soc-Med thing because of the potential risks. I think the balance has now changed and the potential risks are greater by not engaging in social media.

The Sustainability Social Media Index will be updated annually. A full 12 months for all the laggard companies to check out their ranking and get blogging. Looking foward to seeing the changes next time around, oh, and to reading the plethora of corporate blogs that are likely to appear in 2011. And as I write, I just got followed by @ecomagination. How did they know I was writing this piece?

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

1 comment:

LN said...

Hi Elaine!

Thanks for your post. I'm curious about the report and am wondering if you know how the DJSI correlates to a company's SMI Sustainability Index rating. And how does the 'creativity' aspect of the rating relate to authenticity/transparency of the communication? I wonder if those with a higher DJSI also manage to score a higher SMI Sustainability Index.


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