Today on Twitter I read a tweet by GOOD that mentioned a Media for Social Impact conference that will be hosted by the United Nations Office for Partnerships and PVLIC Foundation tomorrow (4/11/2014). I immediately clicked the link, seeing that this title alone encapsulates my passion, my goal in life, my obsession. I cannot believe they made a whole conference about it! After mentally adding this conference to my life’s bucket list, I explored the website and found these 6 commercials that amplify a positive social message. Each topic was completely different from the rest, but they were all beautiful messages worth sharing. Here is my personal ranking of the 5 company ads featured on that site:
We’re not really surfing the web anymore, but rather, we’re lying on the shore and waiting for the right websites to wash over us. In his book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser writes about the internet and how websites such as Google, Facebook, and Youtube tailor the content we see to the information that these sites gather from our online activity. This personalized practice creates what Pariser calls the “filter bubble” (you can visit Nupur Behera‘s website “Bursting the [Filter] Bubble” or watch her video below to find out exactly how this works).
Pariser writes, “in a personalized world, important but complex or unpleasant issues-the rising prison population, for example, or homelessness-are less likely to come to our attention at all” (18). This means that although the bubble allows us to get content that we probably care more about, it blocks us away from social issues that we may not have been aware of before.
The Triple Pundit dedicates a whole section of its website to a collection of blog posts offering different perspectives on what it means for a business to be “Socially Responsible.” Helping the environment, looking at social impact, pushing for consumers to make conscious decisions … these seem like normal CSR tag lines that I’ve seen in the past. However, one article caught my eye because it argues for what would seem like a counter-view to the “lets save the world” attitude of CSR. According to Jonathan Mariano, the main social responsibility of businesses is…(are you ready for it?)…increasing profit!
B-corps that is. Yet another way for businesses to engage in social action. I just wrapped my head around companies doing Corporate Social Responsibility, and smaller businesses doing Social Entrepreneurship – are things about to change again?
Let’s back up a bit.
My eyes lingered on the 2 framed documents to my right as I was setting down my backpack in Professor Jennifer Walske’s office. The certificate for Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award told me a lot about the caliber of Professor Walske at University of California, Berkeley‘s Haas School of Business. But, I was more impressed by the photo right below this distinguished award. It was a framed photo of Phi Beta Lambda (one of Berkeley’s undergraduate business fraternities) with a thank you message to Professor Walske for her participation in the organization’s game night. This photo put me at ease, not just because I saw some people I knew in the photo, but because it gave me the impression that this is a professor that makes time for her students and cherishes these relationships.
Why do her students matter? They are the future of Social Entrepreneurship. Professor Walske spoke about the excitement of her students for this developing field. According to her, “they don’t necessarily see the world the way the world has been so maybe they are able to think about innovative ways to affect change…that is one of the key tenets of entrepreneurship.” However, she says that even if this is an exciting time with many young people interested in entrepreneurship, it is important that they “do not reinvent the wheel.” One of her goals as an educator is to ensure that her students also learn from the past so that they can avoid repeating mistakes, while at the same remain open to fresh ideas.
In a Media Studies class, my Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) asked the class for ways in which advertising has been used to make consumers feel like they have a social impact. I raised my hand and gave the example of TOMS Shoes and their One-for-One Movement. She flashed a smile and said that TOMS was precisely what she was going to talk about.
It is no surprise that both my GSI and I immediately thought of TOMS when we started on this topic. Kelsey Timmerman, the author of Where Am I Wearing?, points out that TOMS as the first thing that pops into student’s heads when they think about businesses doing good for the world. His critique of TOMS Shoes’ charitable efforts, emphasizes that the impact of TOMS Shoes is not that they give shoes to the poor, but that they bring in the issue of poverty into the thoughts of their everyday consumers.
There is a lot of buzz around the expansion of the Japanese-based clothing store, UNIQLO, to San Francisco on October 5, but the buzz seems to sidestep what I think really makes UNIQLO unique: its CSR programs. Among this company’s many programs, I was particularly drawn to its clothing recycling initiative and its partnership with Grameen Bank – both of which address the issue of global poverty (see the videos below to learn more!)
I don’t usually follow fashion trends, but this news caught my attention because I had a grand time shopping at the UNIQLO store when I was in New York over spring break. Throughout the year, I’ve been learning more about the brand’s Japanese origins or clothing technology through random news articles I stumble upon. But, I never would have known about its CSR programs if I did not linger on the home page of its company website long enough for the feature on “UNIQLO recycling” to pop out. It was a big surprise for me to find out that this company is not just fusing Japanese and American culture, but it is reaching out to countries such as Bangledsh as well (although not in the same way – and I can talk about that another time).
Seeing this surprise at the very end of the photo reel had me wondering why they don’t flaunt their strong CSR program the way Toms’ one-for-one campaign does. Has CSR become too cliche’ for brands that aim to stand out? And does this cliche’ status mean that less companies will be interested in CSR, or that this trend has become so ubiquitous that it is now a norm rather than a novelty?