Getting Started in CSR Social Media: Examples from Intel & Timberland

If one of your resolutions for the new year is to better utilize social media to tell your company’s sustainability stories, take a look at how Intel and Timberland are tapping the potential of the Web 2.0  In a recent webinar hosted by the National Association of Environmental Managers, these web-savvy CSR managers described how they’re integrating blogs, Twitter, and other social media into their overall sustainability communications strategies.  And, they offered advice for social media beginners.


Intel’s CSR reporting has come a long way since 1994 when it published its first Environment, Health and Safety Report.  For starters, it now publishes a full corporate responsibility report prepared according to the  GRI reporting guidelines.

Intel also tells its local stories through a 2008 report for Intel China and an Intel Europe report published into German, Italian  and French, as well as English.  Under the guidance of CSR reporting and communication manager Susanne Fallender, Intel is incorporating social media into its CSR strategy.   It’s a “work in progress” admits Fallender who strives to balance all the hoopla about social media with the recognition that it’s important to maintain a balance, using both social and traditional media.

To keep stakeholders updated between annual CSR reports, Intel maintains a blog at CSR@Intel  blog with posts penned by a team of over 20 writers.

Earlier in 2009 — on Earth Day to be exact — Intel launched an internal “green” portal which attracts 1,700 active employee participants to the topical groups.

Intel encourages and empowers its employees to get on board with social media. A Social Media Center of Excellence Team researches and shares best practices with all areas of the company.  Social media guidelines are posted on its intranet and Digital IQ courses offer internal training.    

Susanne’s tips for social media beginners.  

  • Start small.  Take a gradual approach.  Test and refine. 
  • Measure, but don’t feel you have to monetize results.  Distinguish between activities, outcomes and ROI.  Measurements can include number of followers and mentions, for example.

Earthkeeping at Timberland

Retailer Timberland’s CSR reporting has also evolved since its first report in 2000.  It’s grown longer  — from 30 pages to 85 — in an effort to respond to more stakeholders.  Timberland’s strategy now is to publish full CSR reports on a two-year cycle supplemented by quarterly reports which parallel the financial reporting cycle.  “Dig Deeper” papers focus on each of the four pillars of its sustainability strategy.

Timberland conducts quarterly shareholder calls on its financial performance and quarterly stakeholder calls for CSR issues.  Each CSR call focuses on a particular topic such as eco-labeling or the corporation’s climate change strategy, which is framed by an expert and then opened up for a two-way conversation with stakeholders, according to CSR strategy and reporting manager Beth Holzman.

Complementing this is Timberland’s Earthkeeper interactive Web 2.0 platform  created to help individuals become catalysts of environmental movements around the world.  Timberland created the site in 2008 with with the goal of engaging one million consumers across the globe to support environmental stewardship.

It features “Earthkeeper Heroes” and strives to provoke dialogue with its “Voices of Challenge” guest commentary.  With blogs, photo galleries, Tweets, videos, podcasts and other social media tools, EarthKeepers can share their environmental stories 24/7.

Beth’s tips for social media beginners:

  • Be willing to learn.  When you launch a global conversation, you will attract all types of people and comments. 
  •  Recognize the risks.  With the web, you never know whose going to “show up” on your site.

Cindy Mehallow is principal of CRM Communications, a woman-owned sustainability communications consulting practice specializing in corporate social responsibility reporting and stakeholder communications. GRI-Certified in sustainability reporting, Cindy has produced award-winning sustainability reports for Fortune 500 clients in a variety of industries.