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How Businesses Can Do Their Part After a Natural Disaster

As corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more integral to business strategy and less of an "add-on," companies are realizing they need to be more than just fair weather friends to their consumers, stakeholders, and society at large.

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As corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more integral to business strategy and less of an “add-on,” companies are realizing they need to be more than just fair weather friends to their consumers, stakeholders, and society at large.
The recent swell of disasters—including Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornadoes—has led a number of companies to take action to help with relief efforts. For example: Verizon committed $100,000 in grants to disaster relief in the Oklahoma City area; the Office Depot Foundation provided cash donations to Oklahoma residents via local nonprofit organizations such as Feed the Children, as well as school supplies through its National Backpack Program; and Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) provided safe drinking water to Oklahoma residents through partnerships with the Red Cross and AmeriCares.
At the same time, consumers are examining and commenting upon what companies are doing. In fact, new research shows that consumers are closely watching corporate social responsibility practices as part of their purchasing decisions.
Social media is the epicenter of where this corporate social responsibility conversation is happening and where companies should be engaging with their consumers. The new study says more than half (62 percent) of consumers use social media to address or engage with companies around their corporate social responsibility efforts. These conscious consumers are either praising the positive action of businesses (34 percent) or sharing negative information (26 percent), and rightly so.
With social media channels functioning 24/7, people have more avenues than ever before to engage businesses about their efforts. In response, companies have an opportunity to explain how their actions are generating positive social and environmental impact and good business return.
But that opportunity goes beyond just jumping in to help after a natural disaster or tragic event. It exists for companies on a wide array of environmental and social issues. In Nestlé Waters North America’s case, for example, we have been heavily focused on trying to make recycling programs more effective, since we want to get plastic back for reuse.
Consumers certainly have a right to review how any business is impacting society and the environment. In that spirit, I invite you to join NWNA for a Twitter chat about our 2012 Creating Shared Value Report on Tuesday, June 18 from 1-2:15 p.m. Eastern Time, using the hashtag #SharedValue.
My colleague, Heidi Paul, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at NWNA, will participate in the question and answer session to discuss specific areas of business activity where value can be created for both society and shareholders.
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Image via Nestle
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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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