Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CSR and Social Media – Part 2

By Wayne Visser

In my last blog on CSR and Social Media, I wrote about social media still being a “double-edged sword” for CSR. Besides the risks, however, there are also massive opportunities. For instance, the Internet is empowering small traders, promoting greater equity in the supply chain, strongly aided by the new generation of web-enabled mobile phones. China Mobile’s Nongxintong – or farming information service – launched four years ago, which allows 20 million farmers to stay up to date on commodity prices. Other innovations include the Geo Fair Trade research project, which is devising a geotraceability tool for the Fair Trade sector as a way of re-personalising ethics in the Fairtrade supply chain. Meanwhile, Patagonia’s forsaking of GRI-style sustainability reporting in favour on their online Footprint Chronicles®, which map the impacts of their products through the supply chain, perhaps gives a glimpse into the future of transparency.

Looking at the broader trends, a Harvard Business School paper argues that Web 2.0 is causing a distinct shift – from Accountability 1.0 to Accountability 2.0 (Bauer & Murninghan, 2010). Accountability 1.0 is marked by one-way proclamations, campaigns, and PR communications. Companies and stakeholders talk at each other more than with each other. Because it is more about speaking than listening, Accountability 1.0 processes sometimes unintentionally fuel antagonism, confrontation, and mistrust between companies and stakeholders. Accountability 2.0 rests on the assumption of two-way communication, cooperation, and mutual engagement. Accountability 2.0 allows actors in the accountability ecosystem to disagree over substantive issues while engaging in respectful dialogue that seeks mutual understanding and more consensus-oriented solutions.

This is similar to the shift from CSR 1.0 to CSR 2.0, which I first proposed in May 2008, and which explored in more detail in my new book, The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business. In 2010, I wrote, “the transformation of the internet through the emergence of social media networks, user-generated content and open source approaches is a fitting metaphor for the changes business is experiencing as it begins to redefine its role in society.” I argue that CSR 1.0, which tends to be defensive, philanthropic, promotional and management-oriented, suffers from the limitations of being incremental, peripheral and uneconomic. By contrast, CSR 2.0, which I also call ‘systemic CSR’ or ‘radical CSR’, is a more holistic approach, based on the principles of creativity, scalability, responsiveness, glocality and circularity, which tackles the roots of our unsustainable and irresponsible production and consumption practices.


Baue, B. and Murninghan, M. (2010) The Accountability Web: Weaving corporate accountability and interactive technology,Harvard Business School Working Paper No. 58, May.

Visser, W. (2010) The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, Journal of Business Systems, Governance and Ethics 5(3): 7-22. November, Special Issue on Responsibility for Social and Environmental Issues.

Note: This blog is partly based on research and writing done for the forthcoming edition of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship.