October 26, 2010

How should nonprofits channel corporate altruism?

Photo by Vardhana


Looking at the blurring lines between corporate social responsibility & cause marketing

Guest post by Beth Kanter & Kami Watson Huyse

Aligning with a cause is a great way for a for-profit company to both raise its profile while doing something good for society at large. For nonprofits and causes, having the right corporate partner can leverage the impact of the social change work.

Associating a product with a social or environmental cause people care about is a popular marketing tactic with consumers. More than two in five consumers bought such a product in the past year, according to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study. And according to that research, 75 percent of people donate to a company identified nonprofit, illustrating that corporate altruism is not only good for the bottom line,but also good for society.

A case of cause marketing gone bad?

However, the ways that companies and causes have aligned in the marketplace have ranged from the sublime to plain old slimy. Nonprofits need to consider: Should we partner with companies? If so, how? And those that choose poorly are subject to being the conduits to green washing, pink washing and any other kind of washing you can imagine. When the accusations start flying, it can get ugly fast. Continue reading

June 18, 2010

Green Mountain Coffee: Changing lives

Green Mountain Coffee from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI‘ve been swamped by work and speaking engagements this spring, so I’m only now able to edit and publish the interviews I conducted at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin three months ago.

First up is a six-minute conversation with Amanda Cooper, new media specialist for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (its consumer site is here). I had heard of Green Mountain but wasn’t aware of just how much they’ve been doing in the social good space. The company has been donating 5 percent of its pre-tax profits to social and environmental causes for a number of years, with a focus on helping to alleviate poverty and hunger through its coffee supply chain.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

Green Mountain works with partner universities, such as Dartmouth, to send interns down to the coffee fields of Nicaragua. “One of our interns lived down there for three months interviewing coffee farmers, spending time with their families, breaking bread over dinner and working on the farms with them,” Amanda says. “So it was a really life-changing experience for him.” The company puts a premium on getting to know the lives of the people they’re working with and the impact the company is having.

Green Mountain has also supported fair trade guidelines and organic coffee purchases since 2001.

The company works with nonprofits like Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services. “We’re looking to not just be a funder but be a partner,” she says.

April 22, 2010

4 examples of corporate social responsibility done right


JD LasicaHere at Socialbrite, we’re always looking for sterling examples of how the corporate sector is contributing in genuine ways to the social good. Those bridges between the for-profit and nonprofit/social good sectors are becoming increasingly vital.

So I was jazzed to see the presentation by Beth Kanter and Kami Huyse of Zoetica yesterday at NewComm Forum in San Mateo, Calif., on what they’re calling “lethal generosity” (a term from Shel Israel’s “Twitterville”). The discussion provided some clarity around the difference between corporate social responsibility, cause marketing and what the Zoetica folks call lethal generosity: “when a corporation applies its core competencies to advance social change in a way that contributes to business results and gives it a competitive advantage.”

Without going into whether the term will catch on (I think it probably won’t — it’s really just CSR done right), here are four fantastic examples of how large companies have been contributing to the social good in compelling ways:

Molson Coors & responsible drinking


1.Over the years, Molson Coors Canada has used CSR to advance its brand — and is one of the few major corporations to take advantage of social media in doing so. (Shel Israel wrote about Molson in his book Twitterville.) As Beth mentioned yesterday, Molson Coors invests more in responsible drinking education than on alcohol-centered events. Molson reaches out to the community to find ways to spread the message of responsible drinking, putting money behind the TaxiGuy program (for those who’ve had one too many) and covering the cost of free public transit on New Year’s Eve.

Shel recounts the story of the holiday season of 2008 when the Toronto Transit Authority canceled its New Year’s Eve free-ride transportation because of budget cuts. Molson stepped in and launched a campaign to replace public funding with private sector donations, starting with its own $20,000 donation.

Molson has a small social media team led by Ferg Devins, who is not only responsible for selling beer but for outreach to communities in need. The team uses Twitter and blogging to initiate community generosity projects.

Molson’s Responsible Drinking Program (see image at top)
Molson Coors blog — they even have a Socialbrite-style Twitter conversation widget at the right
@molsonferg on Twitter (Ferg Devins)
Molson Canadian Facebook page

Tyson Foods & hunger relief


2.Tyson Foods offers another example of a major company tying its corporate social responsibility efforts to its core mission. Tyson has committed its brand to efforts to relieve and ultimately end childhood hunger, and in the past few years been integrating social media into its hunger relief efforts.

Tyson connected with the Social Media Club and began a string of extraordinarily smart and effective efforts to enlist the community. For example, it launched a campaign in Austin in which it agreed to donate 100 pounds of chicken to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas for every comment posted on its blog. They received 658 comments in two hours and loaded up two trucks filled with chicken for the hungry, Beth said. They repeated the success in Boston and San Francisco, launched a user-generated video contest in Minnesota and sponsored a day of service for its social media team.

Tyson Hunger Relief Blog
Tyson Hunger Relief: Our Commitment
Tyson Hunger Relief blog post on outside Twitter accounts involved in hunger relief
Tyson Hunger Relief on Twitter (Ed Nicholson)
Tyson Foods Hunger Relief on Facebook
Sustainability – It’s In Our Nature: Report on Tyson Foods’ economic, social and environmental efforts (PDF) Continue reading

April 1, 2009

GoodVision: Powering corporate social responsibility

This post is condensed from an April 2008 dispatch from Israel on Socialmedia.biz.

Group shot

JD LasicaWe had a fascinating conversation over a lunch of yummy falafels at GoodVision, an Israeli consulting company that specializes in planning and managing corporate social responsibility processes in firms and governmental agencies. General manager Ivri Verbin took us through the site’s mission and mentioned these sites, which also support community efforts:

  • The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire, a good U.S.-based resource for news about the space.
  • Global-demos.org, which describes itself as “a transnational civil society platform. It pools the globally dispersed and fragmented knowledge on the social and environmental performance of corporations. It empowers citizens, unites civil society and democratically embeds global business practices.”
  • Koldor.org, the first Jewish global platform of young leadership. established seven years ago by professionals around the world.

But the highlight came when six young people trooped into the room. Ariel Markhovski, Moran Haliba, Polina Garaev, Yael Rozanes and Gregory Karp were brought in to discuss perceptions of Israel around the world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other high-minded issues. (Two of the young women wore their Army uniforms.) Their view of the prospects for peace ranged  from skepticism to hope. “I think when our own children grow up, then there will be a chance for peace,” said one.

Continue reading