Businesses are increasingly reckoning with the revolutionary power of social and mobile media. New media is impacting our lives and changing the way we connect and communicate. In places like Egypt and Tunisia, social media has demonstrated itself to be a formidable force that is even capable of toppling governments.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, give individuals and businesses the ability to correspond with vast audiences.
There are many examples of social media’s power to change corporate behavior. With the help of social media, environmentalists managed to reduce illegal logging of rosewood and other hardwoods in Madagascar. When a French company called Delmas continued with their shipments of illegally harvested rosewood, thousands of messages were directed at the company and the French government. This forced Delmas to cancel a major rosewood shipment (worth between $20-80 million), they then put an end to their rosewood business a few weeks later.
No one knows the power of social media better than Greenpeace. They have managed to force Nestle to adopt more sustainable business practices that will lessen deforestation in Indonesia. The scope and influence of new media are hard to resist. When Nestle tried to launch a misinformation campaign, social media users unearthed a multitude of Nestle’s questionable business practices including the illegal extraction of groundwater in Brazil.
According to a BBC documentary, pressure from individuals is causing big corporations to flex their supply chain muscles. Food and cosmetics manufacturer Unilever dropped Sinar Mas Agro Resources and SMART for clearing rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands. Nestle, Kraft, Burger King, and General Mills have all followed Unilever’s lead.
Pressure brought to bear through social media is driving corporations to cleanup their supply chains. Some businesses are responding to this pressure and changing the way they source commodities. Cargill, is now pressuring SMART’s parent company, Golden Agri Resources, to clean up its operations. In the summer of 2009, a Greenpeace report on deforestation in the Amazon, caused Nike to make their supply chains more sustainable.
The World Bank suspended lending to all oil palm plantation projects, after the Wilmar Group, was found to be environmentally irresponsible and Cadbury New Zealand stopped using palm oil altogether after consumer complaints. This kind of public pressure has not only arrested the clearing of land in these areas, it has strengthened the market for sustainable palm.
The ability to foster change proves that social media has come of age. Social media is a powerful communication and coordination tool. As long as environmental groups accurately present the facts regarding a companies environmental problems, they are performing a highly beneficial public service.
Individuals now have the power to make businesses cleanup their supply chains, and adopt more environmentally friendly approaches to business. As the targets of these campaigns know, social media can seriously damage a firm’s reputation.
Companies must now acknowledge that the revolutionary power of new media make the risks associated with irresponsible business practices a serious threat.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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