CSR, Social Media and Integrating with Business

CSR & social media continue to integrate themselves within business.

I was lucky enough to attend a panel discussion put on by IABC New York last week: ‘Transforming CSR & Sustainability into‘Marketable’ Enterprise Strategy ’(full event summary available here).

Featuring DeShele Dorsey (Changing Our World), Chris Davis (Citi Group), Janet Morgan (CSRwire) and moderator John Havens (Yoxi.tv), the discussion covered everything from CSR benchmarking to how to introduce CSR to the C-suite.

Although I never studied CSR as a discipline, it’s an area that captured my attention since I began living with my brother during his time as a student in Property and Sustainable Development.

In particular, I became interested in how organisations incorporate and communicate CSR and sustainability to their stakeholders (I was lucky enough to write a research paper on it during my Masters study).

One point the panel agreed upon is that CSR needs to, and is slowly being incorporated across every component of business – from community engagement to supply chain management.

Interestingly, moderator Johan Havens likened it to the ongoing evolution and integration of social media in businesses – a point that really got me wondering – what are the parallels between the integration of sustainability and social media within business?

Taking a few of the key points made during the panel discussion, here’s some similarities I came across.

1. CSR Benchmarking is critical for each sector and niche of business to compare performance and strive for improvement.

The same can be said for social media and communication. As new channels, media, campaigns and community management efforts evolve, businesses and communicators need to learn how to measure their efforts. While a universal benchmark for sectors may not be possible given business’ individual objectives, it is only through setting and measuring results that organisations will achieve goals and further develop their efforts.

2. CSR performance is a continuum, with new innovation driving products, processes and engagement that redefines the standard.

I would argue that trail-blazers in social media marketing and communications are doing the same. Every day there are new case studies as brands and organisations develop ways to combine and utilise the spectrum of available media and technology to re-define what is achievable and push other communicators to grow and meet their individual business objectives.

3. CSR needs to find ways to contribute and tie itself to the wider business objectives of the whole company. That is, connect the dots between where the company is going (or wishes to go), and what CSR can achieve as part of that vision.

As the concepts of the connected consumer and social business come to the fore, social media too must break out of the silo and tie itself to the objectives of the organisation, and establish itself as capable of transforming and improving business processes and results both internally and externally to meet a wider vision.

We are at an exciting time for both fields as they integrate further within business – and that’s without even discussing the intersection of CSR, Sustainability and social media (we’ll save that for another time).

From the CSR standpoint, it’s encouraging to see so much innovation, and companies adopting the view shared by Grant Smith of Edelman Melbourne in this post:

“CSR is no longer a strategic investment. It has to be done simply because it’s the right thing to do.”

Thanks to the team at IABC New York for hosting the event, and to the panelists for their insights.

If you’d like to find out more, I recommend visiting each of the panelists individually at the following:

- CSRwire

- Yoxi.tv

- Citi Group (Citi for Cities)

- Changing the World

What do you think?

Are there other similarities between the integration of each field in business? Do you have other favourite resources in the CSR and Sustainability space?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey, via Flickr CC 2.0

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