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Social Media and the Future of CSR Impact Measurement

Maureen Feldman
December 2013 

The proliferation of social media has heightened the publics awareness of corporate business practices, both positive and negative.  Through social media networks, people have the ability to communicate, transmit information, and draw attention to corporate conduct, placing power previously reserved for public relation firms, into the hands of consumers. One person’s voice can now start a powerful movement, difficult for a corporation to ignore. 

Rising pressures by consumers, citizens, and even governments to practice responsible and sustainable business behavior has caused corporate social responsibility (CSR) to gain popularity.  In 2011, 57 percent of Fortune 500 companies issued corporate accountability reports, which is up 20 percent from the previous year. In 2013 the Global RepTrak study reported the public believes corporations have a responsibility to give back to the community and expect them to follow rigorous CSR efforts. More importantly, they want to see how the CSR program contributes to the socio-economic and environmental welfare of society. 

The Cone Communications 2013 CSR Study polled 55,000 people and found that only 25% believe CSR programs are actually having a positive impact on society, yet, most companies still only measure their performance and not impact as corporate and government agencies have not yet agreed upon a regulatory consensus on 'how’ to measure CSR effectively.   

As our global landscape continues to change, voluntary efforts to develop standardized national and international policies for CSR assessment must move beyond simply the act of reporting and clearly demonstrate the impact of initiatives in measurable terms to advance the merits of CSR.

Though currently there are no standardized obligatory methods to measure CSR impact, there is an emerging global discussion between industry and government leaders regarding making “measurement” a requirement. As mainstream CSR is being reassessed and consumer and employee demand for CSR continues to grow, impact measurement will become increasingly important to business and governments alike in the next decade.


CSR Sustainability News

Methods and Tools for Corporate Impact Assessment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Methods and Tools for Corporate Impact Assessment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development

Impact Measurement and Performance Analysis of CSR



Research & Insights, May, 2013

What’s New About the 2013 Report?

The 2013 study serves as a benchmark to the groundbreaking 2011 report, and questions around the types of issues consumers prioritize and what communications channels they prefer once again make an appearance. Highlighting CSR as a reputational imperative, consumer demand for CSR remains incredibly strong. New to this year’s report is a deeper probe around social media, as well as consumer perceptions of impact and their own responsibility. The findings are fascinating. Read more…


What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?


Do CSR Reports Really Tell Us Anything About Businesses' Social Impact?

Grahm Randies
The Guardian Profesional, October 2013

As anyone involved in the world of corporate social responsibility reporting can tell you, the world is awash with CSR reports these days.

Some of them are really good. Many are really long. Some people even read them. But do any of them they tell us anything about the change that all of these important initiatives create?

Before I go into the detail on how we understand and measure the change created by CSR initiatives, let me just say that there are perhaps not as many reports out there as it might seem. Sources estimate that 90% of large companies are now reporting on CSR, but this typically means companies with turnover of more than £100bn. Below that threshold corporate reporting on CSR and sustainability is still considered to be weak.

However, if we focus on the reports that these big companies produce there is one thing they are not short of: numbers. Bigger is of course better, although it's not always the biggest companies that provide the biggest numbers.

In short the reporting of CSR initiatives needs to go beyond what has been gathered to date, moving from "what happened?" to "what changed?" Read more…


Measuring Sustainability & Social Impact 

Maureen Feldman
September, 2013

Globally, we face multiple environmental and social challenges. Citizens of the world, aware governments are not equipped to address these issues alone, believe corporate business should play an active role by integrating impactful, sustainable, social programs into their corporate standards. A new wave of younger employees and consumers in the United States, Asia and Europe are publicly demanding more sustainable products and practices. According to a 2013 survey conducted by Net Impact, 85% of university students said they would take a 15% pay cut to work for an organization with values that match their own.  

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved and become standard practice for innovative corporations, however; simply implementing a CSR program without a meaningful method to measure outcomes, is no longer adequate. Trends indicate corporations that realize the value of measuring their CSR initiatives, and weave sustainability efforts into their CSR standards, build trust between communities, ultimately associating their corporate reputations with social impact. While there is currently no standard practice for measuring social impact, corporations that devise innovative business models that meet their bottom line, while creating sustainability, will become the global leaders in today’s market place.

Ernst Ligteringen, chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative says, “Measuring performance helps to scale up the contribution business makes globally to sustainable development.”  Measuring social impact is a complex and difficult challenge, yet the benefits of the measurement process will create an environment of transparency and accountability, appealing to today’s younger more diverse workforce. 


Making the Shift: From Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Sustainability

Rachel Chan
Fung Global Institute, April, 2012

For some companies, CSR is almost synonymous with philanthropy. From charity donations, planting trees to corporate volunteering, these companies pursue CSR activities as a means to build a good brand image. With rising public rampage against the evils of capitalism, the “need” to adopt CSR as a reputation (or risk) management tool has become more real than ever.  

Corporate Social Responsibility, as suggested in its name, implies a reactive approach ie,  the company is obliged to giving back to the society (to ease its conscience) for all the money it makes. 

By contrast, Corporate Sustainability is a proactive strategy to ensure an organization’s long-term growth, taking a balanced development approach to profit, people and planet. It is a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing sustainability opportunities while at the same time successfully reducing and avoiding sustainability costs and risks. Read more…


Next Generation Environmentalists Embedded in Business

Ben Goldfarb
Guardian Professional, January 2013

It is true that that alliances between environmental groups and corporations can benefit both the planet and companies' bottom lines. Yet all too often, these partnerships serve to facilitate greenwashing and conceal destructive corporate behavior. The challenge that the next generation of sustainability leaders face is to make sure that green business partnerships are genuine, that they are more than PR stunts. But convincing a company to make even a small change is no easy matter. After all, large corporations have been wildly profitable since long before the entry of green business principles into the mainstream.  Read more…


Young Consumers Hold the Key to Sustainable Brands

Justin Keeble
The Guardian, April 2013

Idealistic young consumers who see themselves as custodians of the environment present a major opportunity for progressive businesses. Engaged in global issues, Millennials - 18 to 32 year olds - have growing influence and incomes and 84% believe it is their generation’s duty to change the world. Photograph: Alamy

Tech-savvy and committed young consumers can help companies become greener if marketers engage with them. Consumers in the US, Asia and Europe aspire to buy more sustainable products but businesses are making it hard for them. Tomorrow's biggest spenders want things done differently.

Millennials - 18 to 32 year olds - make up a quarter of the world's population and are the greatest hope for scaling up sustainable consumption. Engaged in global issues, they have growing influence and incomes and 84% believe it is their generation's duty to change the world.: 71% want brands to be environmentally friendly and ethical, 61% want them to connect with a cause or social issue. These young people could be the key for global action and are eager to collaborate with business.  Read more…


The Power of Social Networks and Mobile Giving

Maureen Feldman
August, 2013

Social media and technology are redefining traditional philanthropy as we know it. A new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed that one in three people in the United States use their mobil device to make charitable donations. Mobil devices and social media are at the core of how people connect with one another and with their favorite causes. Non-profit professionals predict the mobil device mindset will continue to grow, enabling fundraising professionals to attract and engage new audiences. The ability to send small donations using mobile phones facilitates “impulse giving” in direct response to, “calls to actions” posted on personal social media sites by trusted friends and influencers. 

Capital CauseYounger donors appreciate the transparency and lack of hierarchical structure social media and mobil donations provide. Social media allows a non-profit the opportunity to generate online engagement, nurturing long-term commitments with donors. The process is more flexible than traditional fundraising methods and arguably more cost effective.

Non-profits are also effectively leveraging a powerful new currency; the influence of their online supporters. Julie Dixon, deputy director for the Center for Social Impact, states we typically think that giving always involves our wallets, however, the new kind of currency making an impact in charitable giving is our influence.  Just under half  of those interviewed for the PEW study had encouraged their friends or family members to make a contribution via text messages. Most of these efforts (76 percent) were successful. Non-profits are using their supporters networks to increase donations, enlist volunteers, and promote signature events.


How Digital Media is Changing the World of Philanthropy

Nigel Lewis
The Guardian, April 18, 2013 

The proliferation of digital media is changing philanthropy irrevocably. While there will always be a place for shaking a tin and collection boxes, donating by text – which has grown tenfold over the last year according to a report by Phonepayplus – is set to increase particularly among the under-34s. Perceived as dropping money into a digital tin, text donation is convenient, enables donors to respond immediately to a campaign and, perhaps more importantly, has attracted a whole new raft of support to charitable giving, particularly among the young.

The Digital Giving Review recently revealed that some 30% of donations to charity are now made through digital channels, with the majority of gifts coming through online donation platforms such as BT's my donate and JustGivingRead more…


Why Mobile Is an Important Part of Nonprofit Fundraising Campaigns

Kari Ann Kiel
Nonprofit Technology Network, April 5, 2013

Research shows that by 2014 mobile device usage will exceed that of desktop and laptop computers. What does this mean for nonprofit organizations and online fundraising campaigns? In order to keep participants, sponsors, and supporters continually engaged, nonprofits should integrate mobile giving as part of their fundraising strategies.

How does mobile giving help your fundraising campaign?

Mobile giving provides a great way for nonprofit and community organizations to further extend the reach of their online fundraising campaign. With mobile fundraising, you are providing a place for people to engage at anytime from any place by easily accessing your fundraising website from their mobile devices. Read more…


The Social Stock Exchange: Measuring Companies' Social Impact

Adrian Henriques
Guardian Professional, June 12, 2013 

The Social Stock Exchange (SSE) was launched in early June.  It aims to attract investors who want a social return as well as a financial one.

The companies involved must have shares or bonds listed on a traditional financial exchange where they can be bought and sold and where their financial returns will be demonstrated. But all SSE companies must also demonstrate their social return.

The Social Stock Exchange will hinge on how the issue of measurement is resolved in practice. Especially how rigorous it is able to be in insisting that the companies that list on it provide transparency and accountability for their impacts. 

In the end it comes down to an apparently simple, but rather subtle question: is social impact pursued only so that a financial return will result? Or is it the other way round? Read more…


Local Millennials Change the Face of Philanthropy 

Christina Sturdivant 
ElevationDC, June 18, 2013

After volunteering during President Obama’s first election bid, five young women were inspired by the campaign’s ability to turn small donations from millions of individuals into mighty campaign coffers.

They decided that they, too, could mobilize small donors for big returns, in a way that has changed the face of philanthropy in the District. “We are proving that’s a fallacy and you can start giving at any age and still have the ability to make a difference.”

Capital Cause members are local Millennials, aged 18 to 35 years—most of whom are entry-level professionals who make less than $60,000 a year. Each member donates just $30 per year, which has funded over $20,000 in mini-grants to local organizations. Each member also commits time to a “cause” by pledging at least five service hours to local community projects. Read more…


The New Philanthropists: More Sophisticated, More Demanding -- and Younger

Of the five biggest philanthropic gestures of 2012, three came from couples under the age of 40, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  Are business and philanthropy joining forces earlier than before because technology is trumpeting socially conscious causes into people's consciousness at a younger age? Or have the sins of Wall Street in recent years forced business to take on a more altruistic hue in order to prove to customers -- and other stakeholders -- that business can be beneficent as well as profitable?

 Corporate giving has become more of a strategic function, which means it is to be directed by the company's interests and not by the personal preferences of top management. It's no wonder then that the increased discussion of philanthropy in business schools is bubbling up from the students. "You meet with them, and they have all kinds of ideas about things they would like to do and they would like the school to do," says Robertson. "I'd like to think our students are becoming more aware of the world and are resolved to making it a better place." Read more…