Although Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is essentially practiced by businesses to take ownership of their impact on the society as a whole, it is a much criticized and debatable subject. On the one hand, you have big businesses that are known polluters and on the other, you have governments trying to make CSR mandatory for large corporates.
Tata Steel’s ‘Values stronger than steel’ campaign promotes its programmes in fields like economic sustainability, community empowerment and green technology. It has used social media, TV, print and outdoor ads extensively along with a dedicated website.
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Suzlon India’s PALS - Pure Air Lovers Society is frequently running its ads on television and online, where it invites people to join the movement to make it effective. The campaign sure helps Suzlon as it is in the business of renewable energy.
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More recently, Mahindra & Mahindra launched the ‘Spark the rise’ scheme where firms, individuals and not-for-profits can submit ideas for solving major challenges facing India, with web users able to vote on the best suggestions, which then receive grants, alongside proposals chosen by expert judges.
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With the increasing competition and the need to capture global vision, more brands have jumped onto the CSR bandwagon than ever. The power of social networks and the trust factor that can be built within it has now been realized for its worth. From Youtube videos to Facebook campaigns driving to an interactive website, brands are increasingly opening up their CSR initiatives, where earlier CSR was being practiced discreetly or with the aid of modest advertising!
We asked a few experts via LinkedIn Answers on what they think about brands using social media for their CSR efforts.
Francisco Marco-Serrano an Economist, Socio-economic Researcher and Adjunct Lecturer says,
“I’ve done research both on CSR and Social Media, and I use to argue that Social Media is the perfect channel for the companies to engage in a transparency policy. Perhaps we should be reminded that CSR is not only to keep a balance between governance/economics, environmental and social policies, but to be transparent (accountable) and to be open to discuss the released information.”
We agree with Francisco about Social Media being the perfect channel that balances all aspects of CSR relatively better than other media and the need for brands to show their willingness to discuss their CSR activities.
Anandan Pillai, Doctoral Student (Fellow Program in Management), Social Media Researcher and Co-author of ‘Social Media Simplified’, says,
“CSR in the past has been executed mainly through tangible routes for two reasons -1) so that brands could claim their activities and leverage them amongst their stakeholders 2) to show them in their financial reports & gain taxes or just to comply with the rules (as in high polluting industries like chemicals, pharma, oil & gas etc.) But, now through social media brands are continuing their CSR in an intangible manner, which doesn’t satisfy their earlier goals. However, this route is more beneficial due to its viral nature and helps brands build their image in a much positive manner. Also, the same channel could be used for their other marketing purposes, so many benefits like creating awareness of products, helping customers use product, etc. could be achieved using same channel.”
Anandan hits the right spot when he talks about brands now continuing CSR through social media to not only help build a positive image but also for creating awareness of its products,etc.
Social media thrives upon open, transparent, trust-based, two way dialogues. Brands that get this right, can reap rich benefits via Social Branding. But are brands embracing social media for their CSR activities, really ready to take on this new wave of open discussions?