9 Corporate Citizenship Blogs to Read -- and Watch

December 20, 2012

Stephen Jordan and I have been debating what makes a great corporate CSR blog. There are many reasons why companies create blogs, and of course, there’s no right or wrong way to do them. But you can tell a really well-managed blog when you see one. That’s what this post is about – a nod to the corporate blogs that have caught our attention and keep us coming back to read more.

By no means is this an exhaustive list – in fact, we’ll revisit the topic of digital platforms for CSR several times in the future.  For now, consider this post our inaugural “watch list” of corporate blogs – especially those focusing on innovations and impact in society.

Well-managed corporate blogs tend to fall into one of three categories, based on the main purpose of the content: 1) to move the needle on issues, 2) to humanize the company and create connections with one or two key audiences, and 3) to give voice to specific leaders whose personal brands are closely linked to the company’s reputational or operational success.

Without further ado, here’s what we’re reading lately:

Blogs that Move the Needle

It was tough to list only three here, but alas, that’s my task at hand. You get the sense from the following blogs that the companies are deeply involved as corporate citizens in solving societal challenges and creating improved opportunities for people and communities. In alpha order, today’s top three blogs that move the needle:

I most often visit the “corporate responsibility” tag on this blog but it’s only one of the three main themes; innovation and clean tech are the other two. Overall The Applied Materials Blog contains a fascinating mix of information about the company’s inventions, expertise and thought leadership, and interactions outside of the company.

It’s not just because skincare is one of my favorite topics. Some of this year's headlines include “Difference Makes a Difference,” “Where Science and Beauty Meet,” and “9.11 and the Greening of a City.” Topics range from the business case for diversity to women’s empowerment to environmental stewardship, and the authors go beyond simply touting Avon’s charitable donations.

Each post frames an issue in a way that gives insight and context to the reader, and then goes on to tell us what Avon is helping to do about it. Of course, one of Avon’s signature causes, breast cancer research and awareness, is well represented. It’s a rather new blog (launched in June 2012), and we wish them luck in keeping up the momentum!

I know from talking with DSM leaders that corporate responsibility isn’t a “thing to do” at DSM; it permeates throughout the company’s operations and decisions, including its five-year business strategy. (This is one of the reasons it won the Best Corporate Steward Award category this year.) DSM’s mission is to “create brighter lives for people today and generations to come,” and the Talking Nutrition blog is a very interesting exploration of the ways the company’s core expertise intersects with – and improves – some key global challenges.

Blogs for Key Audiences

Again, no simple task. Here’s the short list of company blogs that seem to make a successful connection to one or two specific stakeholder audiences. While these blogs certainly touch more audiences than those I highlight below, these stood out as good examples of stakeholder communication.

Few other public business blogs have as much employee engagement as the FedEx Blog. While other companies may have robust employee participation in writing and feedback, it more often takes place on an intranet rather than a public site. I’ve lived in FedEx’s hometown, Memphis, for the past few years, and company pride is quite apparent down here. The blog amplifies this employee pride, with stories, employee contributors, and feedback from across the globe.

The corporate legal office often has in its portfolio things like ethics policies, employee codes of conduct, and compliance with the patchwork of U.S. and foreign regulations. We’ve long connected the dots between corporate ethics and the CSR field – that is, CSR pros are often on the front lines of the company’s strategy to be ethical and transparent in its operations and societal engagements.

Manpower’s Employment Blawg turns legalese into entertaining and practical information that ethics, compliance, and CSR managers could certainly use in their workdays. This short description gives you a flavor of the blog’s engaging tone: “The impossible has happened. A lawyer is doing something for free. Check out Manpower's Employment Blawg: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Employment Law (But Didn't Want to Pay a Lawyer to Ask).”

There are several great reasons for Petco customers – primarily, pet owners – to check out Petco Scoop. Whether it’s providing practical information about caring for pets in a disaster situation, advancing one of the company’s “pet” causes – adoption, or highlighting how store products make pet care easier, this blog has a pretty clear customer focus, and it’s on pet owners and pet lovers.

Blogs that Advance Leadership Voices

The following are excellent blogs that leverage a leader’s voice to draw attention to key questions and activities that affect business.

Tim McClimon is the vice president for corporate social responsibility at American Express, and CSR Now is written entirely from his point of view, as stated on the blog’s homepage. He covers a wealth of interesting subjects that touch on current events, business and nonprofit news items, and happenings at AmEx. Check it out to stay on top of interesting questions and analyses in the field.  

This is such an interesting blog, and Kathleen Edmond and Best Buy set a pretty high bar for transparency around corporate policies, employee activities, and complicated questions. I love the blog’s style of laying out a real-life scenario Best Buy is dealing with – sometimes, embarrassing to the company – and then asking questions such as what should have been differently?, do motives matter?, and more.

I am truly surprised there isn’t more commenting and story-sharing on this blog; if I were a business school professor, I’d definitely pull case studies from this blog for my class.

The personal reflections from this executive chairman and chairman of the board can hardly be beat. Mr. Marriott has spent six decades leading Marriott International -- taking it from a family start-up to become the global brand that it is today –so when he writes about a standing room reservation for baby barn owls or women in Kigali, Rwanda or the letter from his dad in 1964, I’m sure I’m not the only one who takes a moment to read. A neat feature about this blog is you can also listen to Mr. Marriott recitation of each post.   

We hope you enjoyed this inaugural list, and we want to hear from you. What do you look for in the blogs you read most often? Which are your favorites?

In future posts we’ll not only continue to explore corporate blogs but will also take notice of interesting uses of additional digital platforms such as social networking and video story-telling. As always, your tips and comments are welcomed.