Sometimes, corporate sustainability is like playing telephone. Witnessed from a high level, a company’s corporate sustainability plan may embrace all the right frameworks, include the buzz words, and authentically and credibly, embrace sustainability initiatives. However, witnessed from the employee level, all that jargon and vision may be lost. In addition to executive management playing a critical role in the success of a company, business sustainability requires leadership and communication across the entire organization. While management may ultimately carry the responsibility of sustainable business results, employees have a part to play in the definition and implementation of the company’s business sustainability programs.
What are your employees saying about your organization? Are they equipped with information and engaged in your company’s business sustainability programs to passionately communicate the message you would like the world to hear? Are your employees aware of the nature and responsibilities around the use of social media for sustainability communications?
Social media executed successfully can be a powerful vehicle to build sustainable business communications by engaging with stakeholders. With new tools and strategies changing the way the business world communicates and exchanges information, social media is becoming the transparent, engaging, competitive advantage that business sustainability delivers. However, to effectively harness the power of social media to create business sustainability value, our sustainability consulting explores the need for a social media policy.
Because of the pervasiveness of social media, nearly every business is affected by it. Even a business that doesn’t make use of social media for sustainability or branding purposes can be affected by what others post about it, including its own employees. Unless employees have clear guidance instructing them as to what type of social media posting is acceptable and what is not, they may think they have free reign to post whatever they want, including information about the company. This could pose liability for your organization. A strong reputation is a valuable asset to every business, but it is especially important in driving consumer eco awareness and business sustainability.
The key is training employees in social media for sustainability communications.
- Prepare a social media policy from a perspective of what employees can do rather than what they cannot. Restrictions can negatively impact the morale of employees, but suggestions on how to represent the company on social media sites can provide employees with a greater sense of involvement in CSR communications.
- Establish a branded social media training program. Inform, motivate, and actively engage employees in the company’s business sustainability programs and social sharing.
- Be explicit in how you want employees to use social media for sustainability communications.
- Provide ongoing education, training, and knowledge sharing opportunities.
- Encourage “trained” employees to share best practices and allow for feedback on the training process.
In as much as business sustainability definitions are shaped and given context by a company’s culture, leadership, and programs, so too are social media communications. Because employees don’t understand the nature of social media, they are unaware of their company responsibilities on and off the clock in the social space. Employees need guidance as to what is acceptable and what is not. Tying corporate sustainability initiatives to day to day processes through social media engagement makes CSR more personable to an employee and helps employees to identify their role in corporate responsibility. At Taiga Company, our sustainability consulting encourages all to leverage social media tools to communicate and share the sustainability success stories on social, environmental, and economic goals.
Julie Urlaub is the Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company and author of The Business Sustainability Handbook. Her popular award winning blog, engaged Twitter following of 53,000+, and her large, loyal following on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ has garnered her recognition as one of the top resources and thought leaders in social media engagement for sustainability. She has been recognized as Twitter’s 10th most influential sustainability voice in America by The Guardian and #25 Top EcoInfluencer on Twitter by Corporate Knights Magazine.