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    How social media can threaten a brand's CSR reputation

    UK: Businesses need to acknowledge the threat that social media can pose to a company's corporate responsibility (CR) reputation, according to a new report by Havas.
    The research, entitled Who Cares Wins, found that companies are still not taking social media seriously, despite the fact that 23% of adults who use social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are now willing to lash out at companies and brands online. Some 81% of young leaders believe that multinational corporations have a duty to behave responsibly and 76% of young leaders think future business success is based on corporate transparency.

    Despite this, and the social media storm surrounding the Toyota and BP crises, 59% of business leaders are unprepared for changing consumer trends and still believe that social media currently has marginal or no impact on business reputation.

    'Business leaders need to wake up'

    The report observes the changes bought on by the digital revolution: tweeting is the new whistle blowing; instead of confronting the boss, disgruntled employees will start a hostile Facebook group; news is not confined to an hour at 10 o'clock and the opinion former is no longer a CEO keynote speech but an SEO keyword search.

    Global chief executive officer of Havas Worldwide and co-founder of One Young World David Jones says, "Business leaders need to wake up to the growing power of social media as a game changer and the emerging demand from consumers for ethically responsible brands.

    "People want to feel good about the brands they work with and buy from, and in a digital society it is the young who are emerging as the change makers. They are looking for corporations that have social responsibility etched into their DNA."

    Change to corporate thinking driven by fear?

    The report asks the question, "If your company were a person would you buy from them?" According to the findings, this is something that business leaders are neglecting. The young, who are driving online innovation, are a particularly excluded group. This group's enthusiasm for social media is simply not recognized by many businesses.

    The report claims that the businesses that are changing its corporate thinking are driven to do so by two things: the fear of being 'found out' and the desire to create more optimistic trading environments by addressing global issues. It sites Puma, Marks & Spencer and Intel amongst those companies that are 'Doing well by doing good?'

    The survey concludes with an insight into the future of CR. It states that one future test of a company's commitment to CR is when CR stops being a specialised function and becomes embedded within the culture of the company, and when the CEO and board members are talking about it. 'Who cares wins' predicts that there will be tax incentives for CR action, carbon foot printing on packaging, EBay-style peer reviewing, where companies will compete to be top of the CR list.

    The findings were based on a YouGovStone survey of 237 UK business leaders, a Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster survey of 1000 adults and data gathered from the international youth leadership forum One Young World.


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