Sustainability & Social Media: From the Fine Print to the Headline Reply

Consumer Reports recently released their third annual “Naughty and Nice List.” The 10 companies in each category were based on nominations from Consumer Reports staff and Facebook friends. It should be noted that the lists only reflect a specific policy or practice, and not the company as a whole.  The “naughty” list consists mostly of companies’ weak return policies, and the details hidden in the fine print.  On the other hand, the “nice” list highlights companies with extraordinary policies and exceptional guarantees that place them ahead of the pack.

This brings to mind the relationship between brand value, one of the less tangible values involved in sustainability, and the impact of social media. Social media is everywhere we turn – it seems that you can follow nearly every company on Twitter and Facebook, and pin your favorite products on your Pinterest board. With constant updates available on our cell phones, company websites have almost become passé.  

social media logosGood press on any of these social media channels can be an opportunity for a company to gain new customers, but it can also serve as a risk to companies.  Social media can pull that tricky policy from the fine print right to a headline, forcing companies to face the consequences or do damage control. With access to the internet at our fingertips, we can easily look up an article or video from years ago, regardless of how it reflects on the company. Customer reviews are also available on third party websites, which, positive or negative, the companies being reviewed cannot control. With the holiday shopping season upon us, is it possible that people may look at the “Naughty and Nice List” to influence their purchasing decisions?  

This raises the question; are you using social media to  share your sustainability efforts? If not, why? Social media can help companies instantly and transparently communicate their programs to customers, employees, and supply chains. Some of the companies that show up on the “naughty” list aren’t bad companies – they just need to be better communicators of their policies. Customers and employees want to know that a company will do the “right thing” but they also want to hear and see them doing the “right thing.” So if you are unjustly on the “naughty” list, or want to be on the “nice” list, think about how social media can benefit your company.