Social Plays Vital Role In Corporate Responsibility, Green Initiatives

We recently released our Vitrue 100, which annually ranks the "most social" brands by measuring "social mentions" across the vast social web. For this article, we drilled down to see what companies on our Vitrue 100 list had powerful and successful "green" and "socially responsible sustainability" programs. Although the brands on the list generated their buzz from many tactics, we believe that having successful green initiatives and sustainability programs can have a powerful effect on brand loyalty and brand awareness. And that can truly drive some positive social buzz.

We researched top green and sustainability programs from authoritative outlets including Green Economy Post, Greenpeace USA and Newsweek's Annual Green Rankings, to name a few. Newsweek lists the following brands as its Top 10 U.S. companies: 1) Dell; 2) HP; 3) IBM; 4) Johnson & Johnson; 5) Intel; 6) Sprint Nextel; 7) Adobe; 8) Applied Materials; 9) Yahoo; and 10) Nike. Four of those brands are also listed on our Vitrue 100. We explore a few below, although almost every brand on our Vitrue 100 has great green programs.

Intel: The computer processing giant was a high ranker on the Green Economy Post and No. 5 on Newsweek's Annual Green Rankings. Both outlets noted Intel's use of social to improve its Earth-friendly consciousness and its work towards minimizing its global carbon emissions, among other things. Intel has numerous programs to reduce waste and release of toxins from its products, as well as continue to develop greener products. It even ties a portion of its employees' compensation to helping the environment. Intel utilizes social channels to help employees and customers to recycle products and learn ways to help the environment in big and small ways.

"There was a time when we only focused on reducing own environmental footprint," said Intel's director of corporate responsibility, Michael Jacobson, in a press release. "Today, we look for ways to help reduce CO2 emissions across the board, and we do that by talking with our audiences individually through social media."

Nike: Nike came in at No. 10 on Newsweek's rankings and got props from other outlets as the company has programs in place for evaluating and improving its environmental footprint, as well as its suppliers. It has also increased efficiency throughout by new energy programs and use of renewable energy, as well as significantly dialing back greenhouse gas emissions.

Automotive industry: Almost all the automotive brands have aggressively installed green and sustainability programs that they push and promote heavily through social channels. From electric cars to reducing hazardous environmental footprints, the big car makers are leading the way. For example, GM's CEO Daniel Akerson has been aggressive towards electric vehicles, expecting to have an electrified vehicle for each of its U.S. brands in the near future.

In fact, Ford's Facebook page is now promoting its upcoming electrified cars with videos and live videostream blogs. In February, Ford launched its "Go Green" dealership sustainability program with the goal to reduce long-term carbon footprints in individual dealerships, as well as reduce overall operating costs. The auto brands all use social channels to inform and inspire their loyal customers to help do their part in creating a healthier future for our world.

Dell: Dell's sustainability strategy focuses on the complete life cycle of products from design to disposal. Its recycling program is one of the best, taking back and recycling old computers for free. Dell makes its recycling programs simple and easy for customers, even offering donation programs to charities like Goodwill. The company pushes awareness of its efforts to encourage and activate its customer bases regularly through its social channels.

Disney: At almost every level Disney pushes corporate responsibility and sustainability programs. Newsweek ranked Disney at No. 69 on its annual green rankings. A recent example is Disney's "Give a Day, Get a Day," where volunteering a day of service in your community gets you a one-day theme park ticket to Disney. The company hit the goal of 1 million in just 10 weeks, helping to generate tremendous service across America. Disney relied heavily on social channels to get out the word.

Apple: Apple ranked No. 65 in Newsweek's rankings and received praise from Greenpeace USA for its green efforts. According to Greenpeace, Apple does extremely well in reducing and controlling toxic chemicals throughout its product line, as well as lobbying European Union institutions for a ban on hazardous chemicals used in products. Given Apple's extremely loyal consumer base, the company can and does promote its green and sustainability programs to its audiences. Apple is a great example of how a company, with an amazing loyal fan base, can activate that base for the good of our world.

We've noted only a few here but almost every strong brand has programs that benefit our communities and our world. And social channels have been the main medium used to promote awareness and generate action. In 2011 and beyond, we'll see brands continue to develop and roll out programs for the betterment of our environment.

Just recently CBS announced its "EcoAd" program where a "digital" leaf will be put on TV commercials for advertisers that are green and sponsor or support environmental projects. A portion of the dollars spent on EcoAds will go towards environment and green programs. Paul Polizzotto, president of EcoMedia, stated recently: "When an ad features the leaf, it sends a powerful message to viewers that the brand is committed to both the environment and the communities they serve."

Green is going mainstream, now even primetime. And with Facebook reaching more than 500 million worldwide and growing daily, green efforts will be a trend that will continue grow and hit mainstream during 2011.

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