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Apr 25, 2012 Bahar Gidwani

The Truth Will Out: The Power of Crowds

The following post is part of a CSRHub series focusing on 10 trends that are driving corporate transparency and disclosure in the coming year. To follow the discussion of each trend, watch for posts on the CSRHub blog every Wednesday.

By Bahar Gidwani

If one consumer complains about a company’s social performance, it is a gripe.  When a horde of them complain at the same time, it is a movement. Bottom up, crowd sources of sustainability information may soon become one of the most important drivers towards corporations becoming more socially responsible.

A surprisingly large number of companies maintain Facebook fan pages, monitor Twitter feeds, and otherwise engage directly with their outside stakeholders. A recent study by Burston-Marsteller showed that 79 percent of the largest 100 companies in the Fortune Global 100 are using at least one social media platform to communicate with their stakeholders. A similar study by The Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth reported that 90 percent of the leaders of the Inc. 100 group of leading smaller companies said that social media tools are important for managing their company’s brand awareness and reputation.

Early efforts to organize stakeholder pressure have already become an important part of the CSR universe. There are thousands of bloggers who write about sustainability and 179 Meetup groups on sustainability in the New York area, alone. GoodGuide’s smartphone app has been downloaded more than 600,000 times. It helps its users buy sustainable products and to gather data for GoodGuide on user behavior that can drive corporate product development and branding. By collaborating on Glassdoor, the employees of 161,402 companies can share salary information and express their opinion of how they are treated and how their CEO is performing. Services such as Tra.cx, StockTwits, and Hootsuite use Twitter and Facebook data to gage how investors and activists feel about a company.  Tra.cx research shows that many opinion trends are driven by the views of a few well-connected opinion leaders.

Crowds have showed their power with the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement. They put pressure on Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers, News Corp, and CNN when they disagreed with their behavior. A number of the 150+ sources we use to generate our CSRHub ratings come from crowd sources. We expect to add more and to perhaps contribute to the power of crowds, by allowing our users to share CSRHub company ratings, search settings, and ratings profiles with each other.

Bahar Gidwani is a Cofounder and CEO of CSRHub. Formerly, he was the CEO of New York-based Index Stock Imagery, Inc, from 1991 through its sale in 2006. He has built and run large technology-based businesses and has experience building a multi-million visitor Web site. Bahar holds a CFA, was a partner at Kidder, Peabody & Co., and worked at McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to both large companies such as Citibank, GE, and Acxiom and a number of smaller software and Web-based companies. He has an MBA (Baker Scholar) from Harvard Business School and a BS in Astronomy and Physics (magna cum laude) from Amherst College. Bahar races sailboats, plays competitive bridge, and is based in New York City.

Published by Bahar Gidwani April 25, 2012