Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Tell your stories !!

We all know that with web 2.0, industries have taken advantage of consumer-generated media because it allows the company and its publics to build two-way communications. Tools like YouTube, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Stumble Upon and LinkedIn are the excellent ways to encourage consumers to be actively involved in a brand. Another practice of web 2.0 is digital storytelling. It is a 5-6 minutes multimedia story that combines digital images, sounds, narrations. It sounds hard but it doesn’t because everyone has stories to tell.

British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) has been using digital storytelling in its marketing communication strategy. Instead of bombarding people with programmes that somehow will solely benefit for the company, it encourages Wales people to participate in production methods. I think it’s really useful. Look at the example like YouTube and we will see that people love showing their identity, expressing their views, and sharing their experience. Indeed, people can tell whatever stories they like. What digital storytelling does is opening up the possibility that individuals can turn the television around to become the company’s “active master”. But in digital storytelling project.

I can’t recall the example of digital storytelling in the Capture Wales website. I don’t know. It says it’s not available in my area. However, I found a couple of examples of digital stories on YouTube. And in Australia, there is a project DigiTales that give you a lot of examples of what digital storytelling is really about.

For the BBC, digital storytelling gives fresh output because it can attract advertisers. We all know that television production works on selling people’s interests and that’s how they get profit. Then, BBC can have an original and sustainable contribution to community self-expression and open channels to reach and connect with the communities. Also, BBC can take advantage of this tactic to look for talents in journalism, script-writing and visual skills, and of course, to boost profit.

For the community, BBC provides access and education in the latest multimedia technology and promotes technology literacy. It’s also useful for people because they can make money from their contents.

Therefore, digital storytelling is a way to act socially responsible by facilitating people to participate in TV productions. BBC can make profit from this tactic and communities have tools to express their identity and escape from the boundaries of dominant images generated by mass media, which is obsessed by celebrities. In short, digital storytelling raises the self-esteem of community. And that’s how CSR works !

Meadows, D. (2003). Digital storytelling: research-based practice in new media. Visual Communication, 2(2), 189-193. doi: 10.1177/1470357203002002004.

Getting ingredients and treating local people fairly

Everyone must know who Anita Roddick is. She is a social activist who, then, a founder of The Body Shop, a second largest cosmetic company. It has about 2400 stores in 61 countries. Of course, it’s not easy to provide raw materials to cater all the need of product distribution.
Most of the products from The Body Shop are made out of natural ingredients. Body Shop has been using, for example, Aloe Vera, coconut oil, banana, and shea nut (I really love the last one). Then, I think where do they get the raw materials from? Click on this and you will find that many raw materials are from places around the world. Next, in terms of public relations perspective, The Body Shop forms community partnerships (which I believe it is another words for CSR) with local community in efforts to get the finest raw materials. That’s why, Body shop can get Guatemalan Aloe Vera and Polynesian coconut oil, other ingredients.

The Body Shop tries to position its brand to focus on social issues in which Anita Roddick has been trying to reinforce. And in this context, it appears on the values of the organisation and one of them is to support community trade. The company tries to promote fair trading for marginalised communities (especially in Third World countries) by guarantying a fair price for the top quality of natural ingredients. So, the firm partners with local farmers and activates their participation (skills) in producing their own resources.

I think this is a good strategy. The company is not solely focussing on exploiting natural resources in order to produce the finest cosmetic products to continue selling, but it facilitates and encourages local communities (especially the expert local farmers) to explore their own natural resources by its community trade campaign. The company tries to build a sustainable quality exchange, not only by treating local farmers with respect and dignity but also giving them with a fair long-term wage. The benefit will then improve the lives of community. Although, there is a controversy saying that this program is human exploitation, but I would say, it is better than just exploiting natural resources from one place without allowing local people to get something from their own land and treating them fairly. It’s like stealing people’s wealth. So in this case, The Body Shop has attempted to source responsibly. Don’t you think?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Black or white: should companies bother this issue?

Well, my title does sound a little bit like the song of Michael Jackson.

"But, if you're thinkin' about my baby it don't matter if you're black or white"
(Black or White)

I have been "immune" when people (i mean in Indonesia) say i'm black although the fact is, i am not black. I'm brown. But, it doesn't matter for me anymore. Just like the song, it shouldn't matter you're black or white. Besides, i got bored with that mockery. But it does matter when you live in Indonesia as people consider white skin as a key opportunity enhancer: a social indicator of status, power, wealth, and most emphatically, beauty. The message is obvious. Dark skin is inferior and somehow dirty, ugly, or even unhealthy. That is why i love staying in Australia as people here are dying to have darker skin.

Cosmetic industries who see this opportunity are happy to sell their products in Indonesian markets. Therefore, the women have been bombarded with advertisements and products of various whitening skin products, such as, soap, lotions, moisturizers, powders, facial masks, scrubs and more. All of them promise that Indonesian ladies can be white in one month, some even offering white skin in a week (Indonesia Ladies and Skin Whitening Products).

When i went back home a couple months ago, i got offended with one of the cosmetic company that had just launched its new tagline. In English, it means "Your face rocks my world" reinforced by television ads and starred by two young-talented male singers. Why males? Because Indonesian women want to have their skin lighter to attract their opposite sex. This video can show you that being white is the most precious asset of women in retaining their love of their life.

I found this ads is somewhat irritating due to the fact that the normal skin of Indonesians is yellow or brown to dark brown, because Indonesia is a tropical country. Also, I'd say this ad campaign can generate dangerous habits of Indonesian women. They can do anything to have lighter skin. Even, they might not think about the chemicals contained in the beauty products that can risk their skin health. Let's say, Hydroquinone and Mercury. Do you think the company should educate consumers to be aware of the dangerous of this chemicals as part of their CSR programme?

On the other hand, Dove with its "Campaign for Real Beauty" attempts to deliver a message that you are beautiful regardless your skin colour, hair colour, and other physical performance aspects. This is excellent because this campaign can make women build their self-esteem so they won't feel inferior, rather than spending a big amount of money on whitening skin products. Besides, people are born with their unique characteristics.

I know that Pond's have to boost profits in order to generate revenue. But is it a good way to reinforce that being white is the best portrayal in a country whose its women mostly have darker skin? Should the company think about this issue or ignore it? Or maybe should the company sell its products with user education or product knowledge campaign?

Palm oil, please save us

I really love Orangutans (Orangutan literally means "person of the forest"), one of my favourite animals. They are really cute. However, the population of this species of apes plummets 90% in the past five years due to deforestation done by local authorities. The Jakarta Post reports that the population of Sumatran orangutans in the wild is only about 6.500, because their numbers are decreasing year by year due to deforestation for palm oil plantations, hunting and trafficking.

This video below actually belongs to Dove, one of the beauty products produced by Unilever. But it can show you the description what is happening in Indonesian forests and Orangutan population, today.

When I spent my mid-year holiday in Jakarta, I joined Rotaract club and attended one presentation speakered by one of activist of Greenpeace Indonesia. He presented the fact that Indonesian forests represent 10% of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests and cover about 260 million acres (Orangutan Foundation International). This is sad because one day i will lose my cute orangutans because people keep doing massive illegal logging and clearing for palm oil plantations.

In terms of CSR, one of a big company in Indonesia, Sinar Mas, has been accussed for violation towards forests and climate crime. To expand the business and supply raw materials, the company keeps doing illegal logging for massive expansion as they hold unplanted concession areas totalling another 200,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforest and have plans to acquire a further 1.1 million hectares, mainly in Papua. Greenpeace Indonesia, as the pressure group dealing with environmental issue, calls for an immediate halt to all expansion into forests and peatland by Sinar Mas and other companies. Further, they are calling on the Indonesian government to immediately implement a moratorium on any further forest conversion (Greenpeace). Greenpeace Indonesia also prevented the loading of crude palm oil on the Isola Corallo, a Rotterdam-bound tanker in Dumai, Indonesia's main palm oil export port. A Greenpeace activist was locked onto the anchor chain of the Isola Corallo for over 36 hours to stop it from moving.

Unfortunately, I can't find any footage that really portrays Sinar Mas and its illegal logging execution. But i think, this video below might help.

I would say that Sinar Mas faces a two-edge sword. One edge, the company needs to address this environmental issue to avoid conflict that is potential to decrease the company reputation, because Greenpeace Indonesia (even Greenpeace International) has pointed its finger to Sinar Mas as a forest criminal. On the other hand, Sinar Mas is the main supplier of internationally-known company, such as Nestle, Unilever, Pizza Hut and Burger King. Do you think they should form strategic alliance in trying to minimise the impact of forest deforestation and the extinction of Orangutans population? What would you do?

Is CSR relevant today?

I would have thought that the title is nearly similar to the question whether CSR and profit go hand in hand. Indeed. As I have mentioned previously that consumers want to buy products they trust, the trust will generate customer loyalty and therefore, the company can build a sustainable relationship within their customers. In other words, CSR represents an argument for a firm’s economic interests, where satisfying stakeholder needs becomes a main aspect to retain societal legitimacy, and therefore financial viability, over the long term.

There are 3 main arguments why CSR happens to be important. First is the moral argument. It is known that CSR is shaped by individual and societal standards of morality, ethics, and values that define contemporary views of human rights and social justice. Consequently, the moral argument reflects a give-and-take approach. Society makes business possible and contributes directly and indirectly with what businesses need to success (for instance, workers, physical and legal infrastructure and consumer market). In return, businesses have an obligation to society to operate in ways that are considered to be socially responsible and beneficial. Secondly, CSR is a rational argument for businesses in seeking to maximise their performance by minimising restrictions on operations. In this globalisation era, where individuals and activist organisations feel empowered to enact change, CSR represents a means of anticipating and reflecting societal concerns to minimise operational and financial limitations on business. Lastly, in terms of economic argument, CSR adds value because it allows companies to reflect the needs and concerns of their various stakeholders groups. Simply put, CSR is a way of matching corporate operations with societal values at a time when these parameters can change rapidly.

From those arguments, we can say that CSR is still (and will always be) relevant today. It is a way to increase affluence of the company. Consumers are willing to buy products, even they are more likely to pay a premium for a brand, they trust. Thus, in this case, CSR will grow brand loyalty. Additionally, if CSR is applied in a poorer society, in need of work and inward investment, it is less likely to enforce strict regulations and penalise organisations that might otherwise take the business and money elsewhere. Moreover, as today media and NGO activists are more likely to criticise the poor policy executed by the companies, CSR can be a strategic instrument to avoid negative publicity that can low the company reputation, court-imposed fines, and confrontations by activist groups (e.g. Greenpeace). Below is an example of a good CSR execution at McDonalds.

Reference :
Werther, W. B. & Chandler, D. (2006). Strategic corporate social responsibility: stakeholders in a global environment (pp.17-20). California: Thousand Oaks.

Friday, 2 October 2009

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Businesses are built around society. They produce what is good in our society, while in the same time, they also cause a great harm, as pollution, layoffs, industrial accidents, and other consequences. For this reason, businesses are largely responsible for creating wealth and driving progress within society because they cannot act alone. They need customers who use their products and generate profits. Hence, organisations (whatever it is called) have to interact with society, and even affecting governments, non-profits and other stakeholders.

To meet this need, organisations have to address their relationships with its stakeholders, and these stakeholders are heterogeneous. Therefore, the strategy that can be applied is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It links to ethical values, transparency, corporate governance, environmental concerns, employee relations, compliance with legal requirements and overall respect for the communities in which the organisations operate.

From the video, we can view that strategic CSR is concerned with both the ends of economic viability and the means of being socially responsible. Thus, we can conclude that CSR is essentials in building relationships amongst different stakeholders in order to be sustainable and survive the competition. However, we need to know what is the reason organisations have to undertake CSR as part of their long-term plan?

CSR is important because it influences all aspects of company’s operations. It gains trust from all stakeholders, such as, consumers want to buy products they trust, suppliers want to form business partnership with companies they can rely on, and employees want to work for companies they respect, and so on. CSR allows companies to maximise their commitment to their ultimate stakeholders, who benefit most when all of these groups’ needs are being met. Furthermore, the businesses are most likely to succeed in this competitive global environment if they are able to balance the often conflicting interests of their multiple stakeholders.

Reference :
Werther, W. B. & Chandler, D. (2006). Strategic corporate social responsibility: stakeholders in a global environment (pp.1-15). California: Thousand Oaks.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Welcome to my blog !

Hello guys,,

Thank you for visiting. In this blog, I am going to be discussing about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR, for short) to which I believe it is really challenging because I must learn more and more about it.

I have read some interesting case studies in Indonesia about how CSR has helped companies to build good reputation in front of their public, not only to be environmentally responsible but also to treat their people (stakeholders) well. Therefore, I would like to explore how CSR can be a tool to both attract customers and position a company as the one that concern about social and environmental problems.

I will be addressing some case studies, either from Indonesia, Australia, or International. I’m hoping I could post some for profit and non-profit organisation. Also, I will be discussing about strategies and tactics they’re using.

I’m looking forward to receiving all comments and suggestions, so feel free !
Let's share our knowledge ^_^

All the best,