Target hits the bulls eye using social media. A case for corporate social responsibility in a digital world.

     Welcome to the new business frontier. Thanks to social media the power of the consumer has  been unleashed in the digital marketplace. Gone are the days when the corporation crafted and controlled the message being conveyed to the consumer. Gone are the days of wanton profiteering at any cost. The corporation of today is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that they must do business in an ethical and transparent way. There is a new social responsibility paradigm for business, a mixture of for profit goals and ethical values realized in a pro active way. ” Social media has begun to play a key role in how companies shape their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and present themselves as good corporate citizens.”

     Consumers can drive the conversation about a company’s ethical values very easily now through social media channels and reach a huge audience on a global scale.  Companies have taken notice. We have seen how social media can act as a pivot and change the direction of an entire culture or country. The Arab spring and other middle eastern revolts come to mind as an example. It comes as no surprise that socially responsible companies are not only using social media to expand initiatives in this regard they are also trumpeting their good works across the same channels. All of this, in the hopes of creating expansive networks of friends engaging in sharing content concerning the company brand and spreading the word globally. The world, it seems, is interested in sustainability, climate change, fossil fuel usage and depletion and green initiatives to name just some of the platforms from which socially responsible companies can jump off from.

     Let’s take the example of Target, a relative newcomer to the Canadian retail market but a retail giant nonetheless. Target is a good example of a company that is both socially responsible and a prolific user of social media. They have many socially responsible initiatives woven into their corporate culture. So many in fact, it would take several blogs to cover them. Here are just some of the highlights including the ones that use social media in clever and effective ways.

  • Increased packaging efficiency, decreasing size and material and replacing with recycled and renewable materials helping to reduce waste.
  • Finding vendors that are screened using certain criteria, i.e. who treat workers well, who obey the law and whose processes minimize their effect on the environment.
  • Target is against the use of conflict minerals such as gold and tin mined in African countries with poor human rights records.
  • Target has reduced the number of Bangladeshi factories making their products by nearly 50 percent while maintaining their overall sourcing volume from Bangladesh so that they could better monitor and manage safety conditions.
  • Increasing healthy, organic food choices in their stores.
  • Modifying shipping routes and distribution centers, in ways that save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower costs.
  • AS of 2014, 37 Target facilities are solar powered.
  • partnering with FEMA(Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross for multiple initiatives providing materials and fundraising help through social media channels. They have helped these agencies provide flood relief, tornado relief and the Boston bombing victims.
  • Huge supporter of schools and education in North America. Most recently, “Target partnered with Search Institute to develop the ‘Turn Summer Play into Summer Learning’ series on its Facebook page, which provides parents with fun, weekly tips to help their child’s mind stay active during the summer with research on how it makes a positive impact on child development. While demonstrating the company’s commitment to education, Target also created a local solution to a national issue by personally connecting with parents through a timely and innovative social media campaign.”
  • Target uses a mobile app to track its employees volunteer hours. In 2013, Target employees logged over a million hours cumulatively across all its facilities. A communications campaign was launched alongside the app reminding team members to log on and pitch in.
  • Citizens@Target.com is a company designed website. It is a site with an accompanying twitter account for people to learn about Target’s take on issues that impact its business, values and communities, and to get involved with their grassroots advocacy efforts in the area of politics, voting, health care, trade and political engagement.
  • Target is dedicated to having a strong and happy workforce and uses technology extensively to keep employees engaged in corporate communications and directives. They currently have an internal app catalogue with more than 34 new mobile apps to improve efficiency and collaboration for team members. Selections include apps for training programs, workplace safety, health initiatives etc.

     Target uses its many social channels including A bullseyeview, its YouTube channel to promote, through video, some of its efforts and campaigns with FEMA and the American Red Cross as well as for hunger relief etc. In addition, it uses its Target Facebook page(one of 3) to initiate conversations about some of its humanitarian efforts while also cross promoting with other socially responsible companies like Starbucks for any combined projects they may work on. From raising awareness, to connecting with consumers in the way they want to engage and seeding positive action, edging corporate social responsibility into the social media world can strengthen consumer loyalty and faith in the brand, encourage followers (and their friends) to take action and participate, and elevate a company’s status in the hearts and minds of the global consumer.

References

Tying Together Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility

https://corporate.target.com/_media/TargetCorp/csr/pdf/2013-corporate-responsibility-report.pdf

http://mashable.com/2009/11/06/social-responsibility/

Why Companies Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Their Social Responsibilities

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