THE SMI-Wizness Social Media Sustainability Index 2012

Feb 21, 2013 3:30 PM ET
Press Release

Feb. 21, 2013 /3BL Media/ - If 2011 was the year of the big campaign and a sense that sustainability could be treated in the same way and with a similar budget to brand marketing, 2012 was a coming of age - a growing up if you will- of sustainability communications. 

While big bold campaigns still played a role - Sony’s Futurescapes, Siemens’ Stories and Microsoft’s Youthspark stand out - an increasing number of companies, including GE, Renault, Ford and Levi Strauss developed an editorial voice. We call it a “magazine mentality”- enabling an always-on and always accessible channel of sustainability communication with investors, employees, media, NGOs and, yes, customers.

This magazine mentality was triggered by a simple yet complicated reality: sustainability is no longer just of interest to niche stakeholders. That poses for companies both an intriguing opportunity of communicating sustainability to a large audience and a thorny problem of how to do that in an engaging, compelling fashion.

Social media has been the driving force behind this change of audience and community. By empowering regular people with the sensibility
that their voice matters and can make a difference, social media technologies have changed forever the way people communicate and act online. Over the course of just 10 short years, companies have found themselves held to account by this enfranchised and very vocal digital community. In turn, having taken a few blows to their corporate self-esteem, companies have sought to turn this two-way dialogue to their advantage, spawning a multi-billion dollar industry around social media marketing, data and analytics.

Sustainability practitioners at first were slow to realise social media’s potential to help communicate their efforts but over the last three years they’ve made up for lost time. In 2010, when we first published this index, just 60 companies had dedicated social media channels to talk about sustainability. By 2011 that number had doubled. This year, we found 176 major companies around the world that had allotted dedicated resources and social media channels to their sustainability dialogue. It was no surprise to see that Twitter and Facebook were favourite channels for sustainability communicators. Of more interest was the 60 dedicated blogs or sustainability social media magazines being published, suggesting the continued importance of editorial storytelling in describing a company’s sustainability and CSR actions.

How has social media driven this change in how sustainability is communicated? For one thing, the connected, amplified voice of social media has made it very difficult for companies to ignore their own responsibilities to the environment and their communities - a viral bully pulpit that NGOs like Greenpeace have become experts in mobilising.

But put aside the need to defend brand reputation and a more encouraging picture emerges of why social media and sustainability work well together. As we argued last year, and as regular readers of our work in SMI and the Guardian Sustainable Business will recognise, the philosophies of social media and sustainability have common qualities that, when combined, have the power to improve business from within and without. The foundations of both social media and sustainability are authenticity, transparency, community, innovation and creativity. Already, through social media, these forces have shaken the way most major companies do business - be it customer service, supply chain management, or recruitment along with the more obvious areas of marketing and public relations.

The next step in the transformation of the modern enterprise will be to apply social media thinking and technologies to sustainability and, in the process, create a stronger, more responsible business that will be better prepared to meet the challenges we all face in the coming years.

Social is no longer a new and trendy form of online media. It has become the mainstream and is embedded both in every form of online communication but also in the sensibilities and expectations of everyone online. So how companies understand and use social media to communicate their sustainability activities will only grow in importance as it too becomes part of the business communication mainstream. That’s why the focus of the SMI-Wizness Social Media Sustainability Index is niche but with broad implications. 

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At the crossroads of trends that are transforming business today - Sustainability, Cloud-based services and Social Media – Wizness came to fruition on the understanding and realization that solving many of the most difficult sustainability challenges requires a level of collaboration and engagement well beyond traditional business practices. 

Wizness features intuitive services that help sustainability professionals promote their expertise and share best practices, allows companies to engage in meaningful conversations with their stakeholders in private and public communities, and enables industries to gather together to solve the most pressing compliance issues and shape the sustainability agenda. 

Enter Wizness, a platform that brings together people and businesses to engage at every level and collaborate to make global business more sustainable!