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 Ashley Coale
Sustainability and CSR are no longer confined to niche publications or blogs. While traditional green or sustainability related online news sources (such as Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, 3BLMedia) remain strong and growing, coverage of sustainability and CSR is becoming a key piece of mainstream journalism and reporting.
Increasing consumer demand has changed the expectation of business responsibility and social action, and has also pressured mainstream media sources for more information. Forbes, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Fast Company, and Yahoo are all examples of mainstream sources that have come to include a full section or blog on sustainability, green issues, and/or CSR within the last several years. This uptick in coverage is important for the CSR field not just for pure quantity, but also the legitimacy that stems from coverage in highly respected mainstream and business publications.
Similarly, businesses have used the release of sustainability reports or the implementation of sustainability initiatives as a PR opportunity. PR Newswire routinely covers the release of sustainability reports, and has even recognized companies with its PR News CSR Award and Hall of Fame (this coverage of Campbell’s provides a great example as does this coverage of SAP).
Unilever’s upcoming ad campaign is another great example of sustainability coverage hitting the mainstream. The campaign will highlight Unilever’s sustainability plan and its efforts to reduce waste. The campaign communicates to consumers Unilever’s sustainability efforts and how they can join with Unilever to make a difference. And these consumers are not those that would seek out “green” news, but very mainstream consumers that might not read about Unilever’s sustainability leadership otherwise.
It is not just business-to-consumer communication that has changed CSR/sustainability coverage, but a shift has also occurred within business journalism. The Wall Street Journal has an increasingly significant amount of CSR coverage (including this controversial piece on the concept of CSR that continues to get traffic and commentary almost two years later). Similarly, the Harvard Business Review devotes coverage of CSR and sustainability in its magazine and blogs. As CSR has become a challenge for business, more businesspeople are looking to standard industry publications to help explain best practices, challenges and opportunities, and to learn from trendsetters. Business publications also help illustrate how CSR and sustainability help answer some of today’s big-picture business challenges: governance and transparency, the Occupy movement and the all-time low of public trust in corporations, innovation and global competitiveness.
The mainstreaming of CSR and sustainability news reflects its increasing acceptance. As most studies place consumer demand for pro-social and environmental action by business at somewhere around 75%, (read Edelman and Cone), it’s not surprising that mainstream media would start to notice.
Ashley Coale has a long-standing passion for business sustainability and the impact that strong, effective communications campaigns can have in catalyzing change. As the Social Media Editor, Ashley manages social media and communications outreach at CSRHub. She is responsible for crafting and implementing content and strategy. Her communications experience includes a wide range of causes including international development, human rights, and federal and municipal sustainability policy. She holds a bachelors degree from Wellesley College and a Masters degree from the London School of Economics. A native of Portland, Oregon, she now makes her home in Brooklyn.