Going Green and Going Social: Why Companies Fail at Both

Here's What You Can Learn From Pepsi, Ford and IBM

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Matthew Yeomans
Matthew Yeomans
Social media has forever changed the way companies communicate. The world of marketing, PR and advertising get it, yet communications professionals tasked with telling the public about their company's planet- and life-saving corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiatives too often ignore social media altogether.

We conducted a survey of nearly 300 of the world's most sustainable companies in North America and Europe around found that nearly 60% are failing to use social-media channels to involve the public in their cause-related efforts, whether it be to feed the hungry, find a cure for breast cancer or find a more eco-friendly way to power the planet. That figure is all the more striking when you consider 84% of these companies have already embraced social media for general PR or marketing purposes.

Our index identifies and ranks 120 companies that are using social media in sustainability communications. The names of the best-performing companies won't surprise you. They are acknowledged social-media innovators like Pepsi, Dell, Starbucks, IBM and Ford. At the head of the index is General Electric, whose Ecomagination challenge is raising the bar for how companies can demonstrate their commitment to society in an engaging and social manner.

The most successful social-media sustainability communicators all are demonstrating how their companies can be useful to the greater community and they're doing it in a way that allows true community participation and feedback. The Pepsi Refresh Project, Ford's the People's Fleet and IBM's Smarter Planet are the poster children for this smart social-media strategy.

Of course, amid the social-media sustainability success stories there are some real corporate communication car crashes. That's why, to accompany the Sustainability Index, we decided to put together "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a Short History of Social Media CSR." Check it out here to see if your company or client makes the list.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: A Short History of Social Media CSR

Matthew Yeomans is co-founder of Custom Communication, an online strategy, training and content consultancy, and editor-at-large of Social Media Influence.
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