For the most part, discussion concerning the role of corporate social responsibility often revolves around the initiatives undertaken (or not) by large, established companies. I’ve personally written about Apple (multiple times, here, here and here), Proctor & Gamble, Louis Vuitton etc. These seem like obvious targets as they have enormous market share within their respective sectors as well as incredible brand awareness/loyalty. But what about newer, less traditional companies like Twitter and Facebook? We’ve already seen the influence of the two as a means of communication and organization in the recent social uprisings in the Middle East. Perhaps their engagement in CSR would have an equally widespread impact.
Biz Stone, who co-founded Twitter in 2006 (that’s right, it’s been around for less than five years) has some interesting things to say about the role of business in society and has been working on various ventures that have an even more tangible role on societal change than Twitter. He is quoted in this article making some very astute comments, including the idea that startups do not need to wait until the money starts rolling in to engage in CSR and that this allows for the impact to scale over time. Finally he states, “there is compound interest in altruism”, which is a quote that I really like.
I often make the point in my articles that for CSR to really be a key component with maximum impact, it must be part of the business model-almost a mantra concerning the way a company does business. For large, well established companies we have seen the difficulties of implementing what could be highly beneficial programs, very often due to the fact that these companies are enormous and often not nimble enough to make key changes in direction. Startups on the other hand, do not have this problem. They are not only able to incorporate it into the business plan, but they can make it part of the company culture right from the start, making sure their hires are on board with the company direction and mission.
So, naturally, as someone who’s seen his platform, more or less inadvertently change the world, Stone has now become involved in ConvergeUS, where the goal is to bring technological change to the non-profit world. Stone believes this sector has really lagged behind in harnessing technology (I completely agree) and could really benefit from it on multiple fronts (perhaps a topic for a future article). The plan is to conduct conferences, pair developers with projects and work on new social networking platforms specific to social change.
I think this is an incredibly important move and something we’re seeing more of, although I am somewhat surprised it has taken so long. I guess in Stone’s case he does kind of have a day job. Still this is an encouraging trend and although I’m not the type that believes technology will fix all of societies ills, I’m very interested to see where this movement might be headed.
Image Credit by tiago_custodio via Flickr under a CC license