Social media is changing the way top-down companies are run, affecting recruiting, communications, research and development, and even how things are made. But have you considered how social networking is enabling companies to address social change?

An esteemed panel at last week’s Social Media Week session Putting The Social In CSR presented emerging practices in corporate social responsibility and how they are increasingly tied to social networks.

Bonin Bough, global director of Digital & Social Media at panel sponsor PepsiCo, acknowledged that sheer size gives his team an obligation to do good. “Big companies have big levers they can pull,” he said, “such as reducing the plastic in our bottles by 50% and developing biodegradable chip bags.” Their corporate mandate, “performance with purpose,” comes directly from CEO Indra Nooyi.

Companies of all sizes are trying to create brand awareness and give consumers a reason to consistently opt into a relationship with their products. And they’re right to pursue the social responsibility tack, according to Chrysi Philalithes from the (RED) campaign, since “70% of Americans think businesses can make more difference in the world than governments.” In other words, they have the consumers’ imprimatur.

It’s important to understand, though, that CSR is changing with the times. “There’s a shift away from ‘buy this product and $X will be donated to a cause’ towards the concept of companies as conveners,” said Virginia Miracle, lead social media and CSR strategist at Ogilvy. “Social engagement is empowering employees to do, and hence form a deeper engagement with customers.” She cited TimeWarner Cable as a prime example. Their employees recently challenged customers via social networks to make “connections” pledges that connect youths with after-school programs. “So the company becomes the facilitator, and their success is measured in terms of the number of minds they’re connecting to needed services.”

Other organizations are setting up social platforms as places for their employees to connect around sustainability, social change and community service activities. But unlike traditional intranets, these platforms connect to networks such as Facebook and Twitter, where their employees already are communicating daily. “It’s a way for employees to show each other the difference they’re making, to garner support from their colleagues and to get the word out to the world at large in a quick and inexpensive way,” panelist Deb Berman explained. Her company, JustMeans, creates such corporate communities, integrates them with popular social networks and aggregates follower data via back-end analytic tools.

The bottom line coming out of this session is that the cultural movement we see today toward citizen philanthropy — the desire to make change, transform humanity, do good — is being embraced by corporate America. At the same time, there’s a fundamental shift happening in how we communicate with one another. This shift has increased the authenticity of the conversation. “Social platforms enable people to bring value to other people,” Bough said. “[As the Pepsi Refresh Campaign awards $10K grants for community projects,] people are thanking Pepsi for providing the opportunity for them to bring good to their neighborhood.”

Image credit, Devonyu, via iStock

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21 responses to “The link between social media and CSR”

  1. […] The link between social media and CSR Published: February 10, 2010 Source: SmartBlog On Social Media Social media is changing the way top-down companies are run, affecting recruiting, communications, research and development, and even how things are made. But have you considered how social networking is enabli… […]

  2. Mark Kilens says:

    Great article Merritt. I'm a big believer that company's have a great amount of influence on society and need to lead the charge of using social conversations as a means to better society.

    Mark K.

  3. […] The link between social media and CSR | SmartBlog On Social Media. […]

  4. […] blogs and other social media can transform sustainability in corporations. Merritt Colaizzi at SmartBlog offers another take: Social media is changing the way top-down companies are run, affecting […]

  5. joesibilia says:

    merrit. nice article. however, your conclusion that the 'cultural movement' towards citizen philanthropy being embraced by the corporations takes a narrower view of the next incarnation of capitalism. social media is working connecting good deeds and philanthropy; but, we need a more robust movement away from the single bottom line short term pursuits of profit endemic in the public equity markets. it's not about how much money a company and its employees give away…its about how they make their money and what impact that has on society and the environment…

  6. […] The Link Between Social Media And CSR February 17th, 2010 Go to comments Leave a comment This article was originally written by Merritt Colaizzi at SmartBlog. […]

  7. mcolaizzi says:

    Great point, Joe. One that we address daily in our SmartBrief on Sustainability newsletter which is all about the future of responsible business. This (free) resource may be of interest to you and your colleagues at

  8. SofiaRibeiro says:

    Hi Merritt,

    Great article! I would like to feature it on our blog at – our readers would love to learn more about this topic.

    Warm regards,

  9. […] The link between social media and CSR. Categories: turning ideas in a business Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback […]

  10. […] “[O]rganizations are setting up social platforms as places for their employees to connect around sustainability, social change and community service activities,” Merritt Colaizzi writes.  SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Social Media […]

  11. James says:

    Companies do have a whole lot of influences. I think they should start using it now to connect with their employees more. Top level CEOs have no excuse now why they can’t communicate more directly with their lower level employees.
    My recent post How to Use Facebook Layouts to Attract Visitors to Your Website

  12. Tamara Green says:

    Interesting post.

    CSR (corporate social responsibility) paves the path for humane professionalism. According to this concept, corporate firms are not only supposed to care about their profits but also cater to the 'humane' side of professionalism.

    Another informative article on the same issue (CSR), which I came across while browsing is as follows:

  13. Olin Hyde says:

    As a board member for a medium sized local non-profit, we get pounded by "CSR" offers. Every company wants to leverage our social network of 50,000+ supporters… we reject 90% of the offers as they are little more than efforts to manage damaged reputations or use us as a conduit for new sales.

    The corporations that we do partner will are really committed to our cause. They donate because they want to see change in society. Yes, we can help them grow sales — but that is a side effect of the effort… not the purpose.

    It would be great to see the power of social networks used to ensure that CSR programs are authentic.
    My recent post CSR- The Importance of Giving Back

  14. […] Merritt Colaizzi said on a blog post for SmartBlog that companies are setting up social media outlet for people to discuss their CSR efforts.  Since companies are already utilizing social media sites for other conversations it is logical to promote their CSR efforts in places where their audiences where they are already communicating. […]

  15. Sean Thomas Flynn says:

    Great Article, we're actually having a workshop on Engagement through Social Media:

  16. Andreas Liljendahl says:

    Check out this website! A social media for CSR based on ISO 26000.

  17. Only hoping that we, Terrestrials, can indeed save our Beautiful, if beleaguered, spacecraft _Earth_ from the environmental time bomb!

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  18. lucu says:

    good article thanks