Archive for the 'CSR' Category

A new GoodPurpose study

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The 2.nd GoodPurpose study published by Edelman, one of the worlds largest PR firms, comes up with many of the same findings regarding the importance for companies to be seen as good public citizens by supporting social causes, as the Generation Generosity report I wrote about a few days ago:

Around the world, people are becoming more involved in championing social causes and increasingly recognize the need to make a direct impact on a variety of global and local issues, from poverty, hunger and education to the environment, human rights and tolerance. And they are demanding that companies engage with them in “doing something” to make a difference.

Looking at Germany, thus

  • 8 in 10 German consumers (82%) are willing to change their consumption habits to make tomorrow’s world a better place.
  • Over three quarters of German consumers (77%) think it is important to buy from companies that they know are socially responsible.
  • Two-thirds of German consumers (66%) like to buy brands that make a donation to worthy causes.
  • Consumers move from viewers to collaborators and want to be engaged more than ever before.

As an anthropologist I am often rather doubtful when confronted with figures like these. Of course, in interviews people like to present themselves in as progressive and positive a light as possible, but whether their actions actually measure up to their intentions is a completely different story. I remember a consumption study which concluded that only 20% of what consumers had said about their shopping habits was actually true. In the interview situation they for example vastly overstated the amount of organically grown produce they bought. When the anthropologist followed the persons around the supermarket, their decisions looked very different indeed. 

Still, I do believe that we are witnessing a change of consumption towards a more socially responible behaviour. I run my own empirical study group: my children. When travelling with them to London, Paris or San Francisco, they are searching the Gap stores for only one product line: product red.

Generation Generosity

 

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Check out the latest trendreport by Amsterdam based trendwatching.com:

According to Generation Generosity,  being generous will be one of the most important attributes for the coming year – both for society as a whole as well as for businesses. 

Giving is the new taking, and sharing is the new giving 

With the economic downturn getting worse every day, an increasig number of consumers are even more suspcious of corporations than before-  only 13% of Americans in a recent poll trusted large companies and three-quarters expect them to lie in their advertisments.

These same people experience daily that a very different approach to goods and knowledge is possible: On the internet people are constantly sharing, giving and co-creating, mostly for free. In this sphere people feel valued and trusted and experience that even small contributions can have a huge impact – just witness the so called Obama-Effekt.

And this culture is not a momentary fad, but as Kevin Kelly said already a few years ago: „online culture is the culture“.

Learning from Online

Now, the trendreport has zillions of examples of how corporations can join this culture of generosity. The most relevant for us here at betterplace.org is the first: 

Co-Donate

Many corporations such as  Whole Foods (who donate for every customer bringing his/her own bag to the store, to a local charity or the German Pfandtastisch Helfen (customers can opt to donate the money they get back for returning bottles) have invited their consumers to donate and do good together with them. 

Tripadvisers More than Footprints campaign pledged 1 Mio. US$ and let site visitors decide to which pre-selected charities the money shoudl go. TOMS Shoes sells fair-traded slippers, handing one extra pair to a child in need for every pair bought, thus following the famous model set by One Laptop per Child.

To follow Generation G is not only “nice to have”, but – according to the authors of this entertaining report – a necessity: 

if you want to stay relevant in societies that value generosity, sharing and collaboration. Joining obviously entails more than adding a social responsibility or sustainability department; it means adopting a generous mind- set that permeates every interaction with your community, with your employees, with your customers, with, wait for it, your ‘stakeholders’. Nothing more or less than a holistic approach to generosity and business.

Just do it

This is exactly where betterplace can come in: Besides our co-branded sites, where corporations present their social engagemnets in a transparent and activating way, we offer many tools for easy co-donation, for example by employees agreeing to a so-called round-up to their monthly wage check: Who really cares if they earn 2290,56 or 2296,-? By themselves, 56 Cent are not going to make much of a difference. But just imagine, what can be achieved, if you have many employees of a large corporations joining the effort, together supporting a common cause?

CSR at betterplace.org – electronical greenwashing or useful strengthening of social engagements?

A discussion which arises in our  team from time to time again, is about which corporations we should be working together with at betterplace. User also join in the discussion: this a few weeks ago we had one woman, responsible for a project on betterplace asking us to remove it, as she refused to share the same internet space with energy supplier Vattenfall, who had raised money on betterplace for a CARE International project.

Our businessmodell is based on the cooperation with companies …
In our businessmodell companies play a significant part: in order to run a sustainable platform and pass 100% of the donations on to the projects, we are offering companies the service to present their CSR „the betterplace-way“, i.e. highly transparent and in such a way that employees as well as customers can be easily activated to add their support to the social projects.

 An increasing number of companies have come to understand CSR as an opportunity to position themselves as „good corporate citizens“. Thus BSR, the company responsible for keeping Berlin clean, is supporting the development and recruitment of young non-ethnic Germans or Swedish energy giant Vattenfall is asking its employees to support emergency relief operations in Burma.

… do we help them with their greenwashing?
I assume nobody in the team would have a problem with presenting the CSR of self-reflexive sustainable companies such as Hess natur, a German fashion house, using organic materials only or a healthy fast food chain such as Berlin-based Gorilla.

But what about a automobile company, activly lobbying for higher CO2 emissions for new cars? Energy suppliers building nuclear power stations? Or banks handing out credit to corrupt regimes? When Wall Mart in China actively works against the unionization of its Chinese subsidaries and at the same time boasts on its website about its outstanding social engagement in China – paying cleft palate operations for babies and supporting leisure activities for toothless grannies – the discrepancy, or hypocracy?, becomes apparent.

Aren’t many companies engaged in a massive publicity scam, drawing the publics attention away from their problematic main business to a few benevolent social actions? And aren’t we helping these companies with their greenwashing?

In his impressive book Creating A World Without Poverty Mohammad Yunus speaks out in favour for a strict separation between companies aiming for economic and social return, as both goals all to often conflict with one another. In his view, „mixed models“, which try to combine economic and social goals, are problematic, as financial profit is the established benchmark and is much easier to measure than social progress, thus almost inevitably gaining the upper hand. Thus his call for the establishment of social enterprises, whose only aim is progressive social change (the companies have to be run according to a business logic to be sustainable, but all profit above the initial investment is supposed to go to the social end).

I suppose, the chances that we will see the establishment of a really significant number of social corporations in the near future are limited. What are we then to do with the majority of companies who first and foremost want to earn money, but who also want to contribute to the social good?

Do we accept every company as a paying customer on betterplace? Are there specific industries and firms (besides the obvious no-nos such as weapons, women and drugs) who we are excluding? What about companies close to Scientology? Or any other fundamentalistic ideology, be it Christian, Islamic or Hinduistic? And another question: On the basis of what kind of information can we make our judgements?