The business case for corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming easier and easier to make. You can argue that it boosts a company’s brand, manages risk, and just plain saves money. But perhaps most importantly the general public is clamoring for companies to enact good, fair business practices — and most of that public pressure comes through social media.
There are plenty of (very public) examples of businesses moved into more sustainable practices by a social media backlash: Immediately following this year’s factory collapse disaster in Bangladesh, companies who sourced materials from the country quickly came under fire; now retailers including H&M, Zara, and Abercrombie & Fitch have banded together to create a safety plan to improve conditions in Bangladeshi factories, and the Gap was not far behind. In another example, last year the Internet cried foul when the Susan G Komen foundation decided to yank funding for Planned Parenthood, and the outcry caused the non-profit to reverse its decision within days. And in 2010, Greenpeace attacked Nestlé with a viral video over its use of unsustainable palm oil. After 3 months of holding its ground against vocal naysayers on Facebook, the company finally agreed to cancel contracts with vendors who clear cut rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations. (Nestlé is now much more proactive about CSR.)
Harvard Business Review – How the Voice of the People is Driving CSR