The Good, the Bad & the Ugly…
A Short History of Social Media Sustainability
This history of social media CSR
has grown out of the research and
reporting SMI’s new special
report: The Social Media
Produced by social media
Custom Communication, the report
looks at how 287 of the world’s
most sustainable companies are
communicating their CSR
commitments using social media.
You can download an extract and
buy the full report at SMI.
1962 – Rachael Carson writes Silent Spring and gives birth to the modern
1854 – Henry David Thoreau publishes Walden, the first piece of
1892 – Sierra Club inaugurated.
1970 – First Earth Day.
1971 – Greenpeace founded.
1999 – Indymedia.org grows out of the Seattle anti-globalization protests
Social media gave everyone the power to tell their story online.
Today, activists and companies are using that power.
2006 – GM’s Tahoe social media competition is blindsided by green
2006 – Vancity launches Change Everything, the first CSR
community social network…unless you can tell us different!
2006 – Anti-oil activists in Ireland give Shell the YouTube
effect…by making a video then emailing oil journalists with the
2006 – HSBC launches Your Point of View, a sustainability social
2006 – Wal-Mart Watch makes big business (one in particular) wake
up to niche, issue-oriented social media publishing.
2007 – Tyson launches its Hunger Relief blog, perhaps aiming to
deflect years of criticism about its poultry-rearing standards?
2007 - Greenpeace “punks” a Kleenex TV ad to protest Kimberly-
Clark’s clear-cutting of ancient Boreal forests. A taste of
things to come.
2008 – Lloyds TSB finds itself on the receiving end of a hit
single by an anti-bank charges group.
2008 – GM launches a social network, GMNext. Its “green” section
is overwhelmed by activists who question just how green the SUV
behemoth can be?
2008 – Timberland starts Earthkeeping, its commitment to social
responsibility and community outreach programme.
2008 – MyStarbucks Idea is launched in part to counter community
criticism of the company.
2008 - Unilever’s Dove brand finds itself on the receiving end
of an aggressive Greenpeace social media campaign, Onslaughter,
against palm oil deforestation.
2008 – Waste Management, the US’s largest trash collector
launches Greenopolis, a sustainability-focused social network,
to some plaudits and some cries of “greenwashing.”
2009 – Ford sponsors part of the Invisible People homelessness
2009 – Former CNN correspondent, Gene Randall, takes a corporate
gig for Chevron and makes a “news documentary” rebutting claims
that Texaco (acquired by Chevron) caused massive oil pollution in
2009 – Target’s Bullseye Gives campaign asked its Facebook
community to crowdsource which 10 NGOs should share a $3 million
2009 - The Reality Coalition uses the talents of the Coen Bros
to skew the coal industry with this TV and YouTube campaign.
2010 – PepsiCo launches the Pepsi Refresh Project and changes
the face of social media CSR.
2010 – IBM creates Smarter Planet a fully integrated
sustainability and marketing initiative.
2010 – Facebook, so often the catalyst for social media
activism, finds itself under attack for its choice of coal-
powered data centers.
2010 – Stonyfield’s farm cam and Have a Cow program promotes
organic farming. And you thought YouTube cats were amusing…
2010 – Greenpeace launches a social media assault on Nestle,
ably helped by Nestle’s own social media faux pas.
2010 – On the heels of its triumph in persuading Nestle to
change its palm oil sourcing, Greenpeace turns its attention to
2010 – In the fallout form the the BP oil spill social media
harnesses popular rage.
2010 – Burger King, perhaps mindful of the Nestle effect,
quickly agrees to drop its relationship with Sinar Mas palm oil.
2010 – Ford launches The People’s Fleet, a sustainability
marketing competition to aid charitable causes in Los Angeles.
2010 – Coca-Cola creates Hand Revolt, a tongue-in-cheek social
media campaign to promote recycling.
2010 – Twitter combines with Room to Read and Crushpad wine to