Public Relations Tactics

At your community service: 5 companies with strong CSR initiatives

April 2, 2012

For this month’s “Social Responsibility” issue, we interviewed communications experts from five top-ranking CSR companies to see why it’s important to have a socially conscious mindset.

Here’s what representatives from Texas Instruments, The Coca-Cola Company, UPS, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., and Marriott Hotels are saying about what it means to be sustainable, why it’s important to give back to the community, how to display your environmentally friendly values to consumers and how social media is playing a role in CSR best practices.

Gail Chandler, APR

Public Affairs, Communications
Texas Instruments

Why is corporate social responsibility important for Texas Instruments?

We believe that strong companies build strong communities, and strong communities build strong companies. Texas Instruments has a long history of community involvement that goes back to our founders.

Our citizenship commitment makes us a stronger company and strengthens the communities where our employees live and work. We work to inspire our people to be active members of their communities, improve our communities through philanthropy, volunteerism and leadership, and impact business through ethical, transparent interactions with our customers and stakeholders.

How does Texas Instruments display its environmentally friendly and socially conscious mindset to its customers?

We communicate our citizenship strategies and activities to customers through our Citizenship Report, which is released in May each year, our Citizenship website and social media. Our leaders lead and speak in our communities.

For example, our CEO is leading the annual citywide fundraising campaign for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (our headquarters). We educate our employees about TI’s strong ethics and values and the company’s culture of giving back.  [It] is important that our leaders and employees represent this mindset in their everyday interactions with customers and other key stakeholders.

Why is it important for organizations to give back to their communities — through volunteer activities and philanthropic donations?

It’s simply that we can make a bigger difference together.  We can build a better future for all when we work to improve our communities.

At TI, we focus on improving education, particularly science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for girls and underrepresented minorities. These are the skills that employees of 21st century companies must have to be successful, and every student needs these critical skills to better themselves. 

What role is social media playing in Texas Instruments’ CSR efforts (how are you using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and blogs)?

We’ve begun using social media to engage our key stakeholders, including our employees, potential recruits, customers, educators, community leaders, investors, neighbors and elected officials. We’re active on Facebook and Twitter and we’ve started a corporate blog. But this is an area where we can improve and we have plans to do even more in the coming year.

Visit here to learn more about Texas Instruments’ sustainability initiatives.

Lynnette McIntire 

Director, Sustainability

Why is corporate social responsibility important for UPS?

CSR is, in the simplest terms, using resources wisely and acting responsibly. Those two things tie back to our economic success, to being a well-managed company, being an employer of choice and being a valued member of the community.

How does UPS display its environmentally friendly and socially conscious mindset to its customers?

We comprehensively and accurately report our environmental, social and economic impact. We showcase our credentials — rankings, awards and commentary — from third parties so that our claims are credible.  And we require our employees and suppliers to act responsibly.

We use every channel possible — social media, advertising, our own Web assets, executive speeches and our employees — to tell our story broadly. Increasingly, we also are working with customers, business partners, NGOs, government entities and charitable partners to explain our efforts. This can be much more persuasive than our own messages.

Why is it important for organizations to give back to their communities?

Nearly a century ago, our founder Jim Casey said that UPS can only be as strong as the communities where we operate.  The amount of shipments we receive from a community is directly related to its economic and social prosperity.  And that is not only local to the United States, but also [true] to communities around the world.

What role is social media playing in UPS’s CSR efforts?

Web-based channels are the dominant way that sustainability messages are delivered to the multifaceted groups of stakeholders who pay attention to these issues. Increasingly, social media is the channel where reputations are won or lost.  We carefully monitor how our environmental and social performance is evaluated in social media and then appropriately respond. 

These channels also can be powerful avenues to deliver messages that don’t fit the traditional criteria of news.  Twitter and Facebook can more effectively reach the readers who care passionately about social and environmental issues than do traditional mass media.

Visit here to learn more about UPS’s sustainability initiatives.

Allyson Park

Vice President, Corporate External Affairs
The Coca-Cola Company

Why is corporate social responsibility important for Coca-Cola?

As the world’s largest beverage system, and as a company that is global and local, we recognize the unique opportunity we have to make a positive difference in the communities we serve.

We see our sustainability efforts as the right thing to do — the continuation of responsible corporate citizenship that began in our earliest days as a company and continues to be stressed in our values and culture.  And, we recognize that it is also a business imperative: Our company can only be as healthy as the people and communities we strive to refresh.  We are making steady progress, but are challenging ourselves to quicken the pace of our progress on sustainability.

How does Coca-Cola display its environmentally friendly and socially conscious mindset to its customers?

Our customers include anyone who sells our products in any outlet — grocery stores, restaurants, street vendors, convenience stores, movie theaters and amusement parks, among others.  They play an important role in our sustainability efforts.

We are partnering with our customers on initiatives like the installation of energy-efficient equipment, recycling and package recovery efforts, as well as the introduction of new packaging like the PlantBottle. Further, some of our customers are part of our 5 BY 20 initiative to enable the economic empowerment of five million women entrepreneurs across our value chain by 2020.

Why is it important for organizations to give back to their communities?

For much of history, any company could combine success and citizenship with a simple formula: Do well, do good and do no harm in the process.
Today, that is just the baseline. Business must participate in the world of social and economic development.  Being a good company is simply not good enough. If we are to achieve our business goals, we will need to grow in a way that continues to enrich the world around us.

What role is social media playing in Coca-Cola’s CSR efforts?

Social media continues to be a key component of the Coca-Cola marketing mix, and just this year we [made] our global sustainability report fully digital and designed it for use across all social platforms and tablets. In addition to seeing how many consumers engage with us, we are also looking at  “consumer expressions,” which we define as any level of engagement with our brand content — from comments, shares and “Likes,” to uploaded photos or videos. 
We believe that our consumers own our brand. The fact that the Coca-Cola fan page on Facebook recently surpassed 40 million fans illustrates this belief.  We only control 10-15 percent of the dialogue about our brands online; our “fans-first” approach focuses on co-creating content with consumers and being part of — not leading — conversations in social media communities.

Visit here to learn more about Coca-Cola’s sustainability initiatives.

Carsten Krebs, Ph.D.

Director, Corporate Communications
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

Why is corporate social responsibility important for Volkswagen?

Corporate social responsibility is important for  Volkswagen because we believe in investing in the communities where we do business, providing necessary skills and training to nurture the workforce of tomorrow, and being environmentally responsible citizens.  This is ingrained in our corporate values — this is what we do and who we are.

How does Volkswagen display its environmentally friendly and socially conscious mindset to its customers?

Volkswagen’s environmentally friendly program, “Think Blue.” is a global initiative to promote eco-friendly mobility and motivate employees and customers to practice environmental responsibility in their everyday lives. Starting with our vehicles, the Volkswagen Group has brought down the CO2 emissions of its EU 27 new vehicle fleet from 166 grams (2006) to 137 grams (2011) in this short period alone.  That corresponds to a reduction of more than 17 percent.  There are 28 model variants in the Group’s range emitting less than 100 grams/km CO2 and BlueMotionTechnologies are offered in almost all of  Volkswagen’s model lines.

Volkswagen has set its sights on becoming the leading automaker in economic and ecological terms, and is therefore investing more than $10.5 billion annually in research and development into technologies to improve the efficiency of our engines and vehicle fleet.

Also, with “Think Blue. Factory.” Volkswagen is adding key measures in the field of automobile production to the “Think Blue.” portfolio. The program focuses on raising efficiency in production and expanding environmentally friendly energy supplies, and addresses all employees at  Volkswagen plants all over the world.

Under its “Think Blue. Factory.” program, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand has set clear targets for the ecologically sustainable operation of all factories. The environmental impact at all Volkswagen plants is to be reduced by 25 percent by 2018.  That applies in particular with reference to energy consumption, waste, airborne emissions, water consumption and CO2 emissions.
Why is it important for organizations to give back to their communities?

It is important for corporations to give back to the community because it is our responsibility as corporate citizens. Investing in the community should be embedded in every corporation’s DNA. Not only does it show integrity on the part of the company, but it also demonstrates a commitment to the growth and development of the community where your employees live and work.

Giving back leads to the improvement of the lives of others, the reinvestment in future human capital and an increased quality of life for everyone in that community.

What role is social media playing in Volkswagen’s CSR efforts?

Social media is an integral component to amplifying awareness of Volkswagen’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility. Our community-based channels (including the  Volkswagen USA Facebook page, which now has more than one million fans) and the “Think Blue.” blog are the platforms through which we tell our stories and encourage our consumers to learn more about how they can live more ecologically sustainable lives.

Visit here to learn more about Volkswagen’s sustainability initiatives.

Mari L. Snyder

Vice President, Social Responsibility and Community Engagement
Marriott International, Inc.

Why is corporate social responsibility important for Marriott?

Demonstrating strong — and continually improving — environmental, social and governance performance and communicating with a wide range of stakeholders is essential for companies today.

J.W. Marriott Jr. has often said, “We are all guests on this planet.”  We are committed to building a more sustainable future so that future guests have a healthier planet to travel and stronger communities to visit.   

How does Marriott display its environmentally friendly and socially conscious mindset to its customers?

The Internet and social media have been integral in our communication with our customers. Last year we relaunched our social responsibility website. This award-winning website is devoted to sharing how the company does business — responsibly — all around the world.

Additionally [CEO] Bill Marriott often uses his blog, Marriott on the Move, to share our social responsibility stories.

Why is it important for organizations to give back to their communities?

For nearly 85 years, Marriott’s core values have helped to propel our success — values like serving our world, which we believe help us grow our business while making the communities we operate in stronger.

What role is social media playing in Marriott’s CSR efforts?

We have active social media channels where our followers are engaged, including our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Each is updated frequently with our environmental news and programs such as our LEED hotel prototype program, which saves [our owners] design and operational costs while conserving resources, and our innovative conservation program Juma, where Marriott made a $2 million commitment to preserve the endangered Brazilian rainforest and Nobility of Nature in an effort to safeguard fresh water in the mountains of China’s Sichuan Province, and improve water quality for the rural communities of Pingwu County.

Visit here to learn more about Marriott’s sustainability initiatives

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


Sauty Omar Timtey says:

Makes interesting reading! Think your guests got it right and thus show the way to go in terms on practice.

April 14, 2012

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