Saturday, May 26, 2012

16 Great Corporate CSR Blogs

These past few years have witnessed a multitude of corporate CSR and/or Sustainability blogs. These are immensely valuable for companies as a way to update all those who might be interested in the way the focus on CSR is maintained throughout the year and not just at Sustainability Report time. Blogs are also a way for companies to tell their stories through the faces and voices of employees (and most seem to be genuine, rather than ghosted), thereby gaining both internal momentum as well as an external presence. Also, corporate CSR blogs are an opportunity to elicit feedback. We should not be concerned that very few people actually engage on blogs. As I know from experience with my own blogs, posts spark the discussion but very often, the conversation takes place off-blog. Companies who share via their blogs demonstrate that they are open to these conversations. A case in point is the great example of my interaction with Microsoft a few weeks back.

Here, in alfa order, are ten of the companies whose corporate CSR Blogs are on my radar.

adidas Group Blog
This is a nice blog from members of the adidas team, headed up by the adidas Chief Communications Officer, covering, as you might imagine, all things related to sport, adidas brands, and often, things related to CSR and community involvement. While the blog has a broad scope, clicking the Sustainability Aspects category via the Category Search function brings up some interesting material including the latest post about German TV's visit inside adidas factories in China and a frank look at working conditions. The Community Involvement Category showcases adidas's volunteering and other projects for society.

Applied Materials Blog
The "About this Blog" page explains that the Applied Materials Blog is "dedicated to a global discussion about the ideas, actions and products changing the world as we know it.  Here we will provide insight into the innovations being created by our employees, technologists and global workforce as well as continue to drive the conversation about the role clean technology can play in saving our planet, while also creating jobs and other economic benefits by helping promote energy independence. We will also discuss the importance of being a leading global citizen and operating in an environmentally and socially responsible manner." Bloggers include members of the Applied team, including the CEO, though he has obviously been rather busy of late as his last post was in 2010. For those interested in renewable energy, this is quite an interesting blog.

BT Better Future Blog
This blog is subtitled "Join the Debate, We Want your Views". However, there are not yet any comments on any of the  posts so far, dating back, as far as I can tell, to February 2012.  The BT blog is a hybrid, containing posts from BT people and also external stakeholders, such as this post about "Embracing all in the digital revolution" by John Fisher, Chief Executive of Citizens Online, or this one, from a  Year 10 pupil at a school in Northern England, who participated in BT’s Big Voice competition gives young people the chance to make short films on inclusion and diversity issues. It's a nice touch to have external stakeholders on the blog. I always say that there is a great credibility advantage in letting others help tell your  story. The BT blog is not so active - only 10 posts in around four months - but it's a presence and the material is interesting and informative. Suggestion for improvement: Add an "About this Blog" page, tell us what you are trying to do with the blog and provide the bios of the key regular contributors.  Who is writing the blog is as important as what they are writing :).
(N.B. Kevin Moss, BT Americas CSR head also maintains a private-business BT blog at CSR Perspective, which is always a worthwhile read.)

Centrica's Blog
Centrica, with its vision to be the most trusted energy company, has been running a blog now since 2008, managing to maintain around three to four posts per month.  It is populated with a range of CSR related stories, news about Centrica's Sustainability Reporting, and market developments which affect energy consumption and practices. Authors have a short profile on the blog, on their landing page. The blog forms a part of Centrica's overall communications strategy  to get more online more frequently, with a plan for weekly updates throughout 2012. A good example of how blogging can be used to change or correct perceptions is this post on the value of windpower in cutting CO2 emissions. Following a public report that the economic and emissions benefits of windpower are just hot air (ha-ha, couldn't resist), Centrica provides their own perspective on why windpower is an important alternative renewable energy source.

Citi Blog from Citi group
This blog covers information about Citi's citizenship and community activities, and other topics relevant to Citi's role in society. Some of the posts are rather finance-geek oriented, through many of more general interest for CSR fans. Despite the topical relevance of this post, entitled "Executive compensation at Citi", no comments were left by readers. On the other hand, this post, entitled "You Spoke. We Listened" generated 385 comments, many of which were complaints and requests for better service. To Citi's credit (no pun intended :), a post responding to the 385 was published soon thereafter. This is the power of the blog and  one instance in which I see a blog truly engaging customers and responding to them in a considerate way. Citi celebrated its 200th anniversary with a series of posts from the Bank's history, including this latest one about what is probably one of the earliest graduate training programs on record, the hiring of 20 graduates in 1915 to train for careers overseas, to boost the Bank's international presence.  
This is a lively and informative blog which covers a wide range of topics related to CSR, offering information about food, eating and nutrition habits, food preparation, environmental tips and more, as well as updates about what's going on in the world of Delhaize CSR activities. Archives go back to June 2011 and the blog has maintained a good stream of content since then, using pictures and videos to liven things up, and even the occasional smiley. There is an About Us page, which describes the blog's purpose, but no details of who is doing all the writing. In fact, all the posts are anonymously authored. Suggestion for improvement: Let us know who is behind the Delhaize posts!  Even if the blog is authored by a professional communications company, it's still pretty good!   

This is part of the FedEx corporate blog and the CSR bit represents the posts that are tagged with CSR. However, the overall blog tag cloud has CSR, sustainability, environment, disaster relief etc as the most prominent keywords, so the CSR elements of the FedEx blog dominates. Posts are written by FedEx people and clicking on each author's name takes you to a bio page so that you can see who you are reading. The FedEx blog is followed by FedEx people as is evidenced by frequent comments, many of which express pride at being part of the FedEx company. What a great way to showcase this organization's culture.

GlaxoSmithKline (U.S) More than Medicine
This is a very interesting blog, rooted in GSK's U.S. operations, which covers the role of Big Pharma in healthcare, appropriate for the company which heads up the Access to Medicine Index.  The purpose of the blog, which has been running consistently for a few years now, is stated as "Our goal is to encourage an open, productive discussion about a range of topics related to the US healthcare system and how it can be improved. And we're going to try and do our best to provide a GSK perspective that doesn't sound like it's written in "legalese." But the blog doesn't cover only healthcare issues. It includes a wide range of posts on different aspects of GSK's CSR programs and employee volunteering events. The blog also has an "About this Blog" page so you know the rules and who is doing the editing and posting.

Intel CSR Blog
No summary of CSR Blogs would be complete without the Intel CSR Blog. I don't know if it's the longest running, but it started in 2007, when very few corporates had even heard of the Internet, let alone think of blogging on it. The Intel blog has maintained a consistently high quality of posts at the rate of about 8 posts per month since then, and is still going strong, also being used as a platform for sharing "bite-sized" pieces of the annual CR Report. Contributors to the Intel CSR blog are a range of Intel execs from all over the world, and from a range of business functions. You can get to meet them on the "Meet the Bloggers" page, where each has a short bio and there is also an About this Blog page. What's nice about this Intel Blog is that it covers a broad spectrum of topics under the CSR umbrella and often includes special posts, such as this one,  from Intel volunteers  with the Intel Education Service Corps, who tell first hand of their experiences in different countries around the world. Quite an inspiring program.  

Johnson and Johnson BTW Blog
The "About BTW" page on the J&J BTW blog starts with the line: "Everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we?" How true! This is also one of the veteran blogs, which joined the blogosphere in June 2007, and its blog tag cloud clearly makes citizenship the number one topic. We are introduced to the bloggers  on a separate page. From disease to diversity to greening the healthcare system, the J&J blog covers a lot of ground and is well written, mainly by the J&J team, presenting personal views and perspectives on CSR and healthcare related issues, using plenty of videos and infographics to make the reader experience a little more fun. It's a serious, intelligent blog which offers good information and an occasional external post from a relevant expert. 

McDonald's Open for Conversation Blog
The blog is Open for Conversation and conversation it gets. Most posts yield several comments, including this one, about  McDonald's bold decision to stop gestation stalls for sows. The blog is sponsored by McDonald's VP for Sustainability, Bob Langert,  and is edited by McDonald's Community Manager and appears to have been running since July 2011, which is the first archived post, in which Bob Langert outlines the three big shifts in business that underpin sustainability. It's an interesting blog and one which, you will be surprised to find, hardly mentions hamburgers, though the juicy double cheeseburger and chips on the blog graphics reminds you where you are. A good blog and worth a look in for important insights and yes, discussion.

Dating back to February 2008, the Microsoft blog is a combination of technical tips and updates and other aspects of Microsoft's CSR performance.  Posts are coordinated by the Microsoft Citizenship team but names are not named and bios are not bio'd. This blog is of less interest to the general CSR reader, though anyone wanting to keep up to date with the latest software for non-profits will enjoy it. Suggestion for improvement: Expose the Microsoft Citizenship Team!

Microsoft also maintains an excellent environmental blog called Software Enabled Earth which is the official blog of Microsoft's environmental sustainability team. It's a great round-up of everything environmental and includes a weekly post of what's topical.

Netafim Blog- Pioneering Irrigation
This is a great blog from a great company with a great story to tell. The impact of drip-irrigation on sustainable agriculture is powerful. The blog is written by Netafim's CSO, Naty Barak, and contains a range of perspectives and updates on Netafim's activities to advance agricultural productivity around the world.  The blog started in 2010 with a short but sweet post on how Netafim broadened its outlook from a small desert Kibbutz to global sustainability, and has maintained a flow of one to two posts per month since then.

Telefonica Public Policy Blog
"With this blog, Telefónica wishes to share its views on global policy issues concerning Digital communication, Internet, Broadband and Sustainability, but also receive your feedback and ideas."  This is a line from the "About this Blog" page, where the key authors and their bios are also provided. Archives go back to January 2011, and the top post ever got close to 7,000 hits on the subject of "Europe leading social innovation".  The Telefonica blog is highly informative about public policy issues, as its name suggests, with a focus on European Commission and changes and developments of legislation in the ICT sector. A very useful blog for those with an interest in this field. I particularly liked (and learned from) this recent post about the new European Commission strategy for making the internet safer for children.

This blog is for stories from the Timberland community about the Timberland brand, business, products and passions. The blog has archives back to mid 2008 which makes this another veteran corporate CSR blog. Posts are by Timberland people who have a landing page with their job title and personal information such as what they do in their spare time. This is a blog for those who love the Great Outdoors, though it also covers different aspects of Timberland CSR performance and initiatives, such as this post which describes how a Timberland jacket is made from recycled plastic bottles and even recycled coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are, apparently, excellent at absorbing odor. If you can't wear it, as they say, drink it!

Beware though if you are a CEO Blogger. If you leave the company under a cloud, your blog gets taken down. Brian Dunn, the former BestBuy CEO blogger,  knows this from first-hand experience.

Finally, there are many other great corporate CSR blogs out there, and all differ  in style, tone, content and focus. I have covered but a few. I feel sure that all companies reap major benefits from blogging, and it's an informal and inviting way to communicate, personalize the business and create trust.

Disclosure: Netafim in Israel, Intel in Israel, GSK in Romania are clients of my company, Beyond Business.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant,  winning Sustainability Reporter (CRRA '12 Best SME Report), 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 (Beyond Business, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you didn't list Forbes CSR blog... I've read a few of their posts and found them to be pretty good.

elaine said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for commenting. Forbes is a business magazine and publishes news and Op Eds. My post is about corporations who practice CSR and use blogging as a means of communication with their stakeholders. If Forbes Inc. decides to become a CSR oriented business, and blog about it, then I may well consider convering that in a future post! thanks, elaine

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