Nintendo’s CSR Opportunity

Image: Flickr/Jeff Diouhy
Image: Flickr/Jeff Diouhy

By Andrew Horton-Hall

The year 2013 has been one that Nintendo would like to forget.

With lagging sales of it’s Wii U game console, fluctuating stock prices, and the passing of former President Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Kyoto-based video games giant is enduring one of it’s worst years on record. In the next few weeks, competitors Microsoft and Sony will be claiming their place in the next generation of video games, further clouding Nintendo’s future outlook.

Is the brand that many Millennials grew up with in danger of losing its way? For now, Nintendo’s brand standing is secure. The company is currently ranked 67th by Interbrand’s Top 100 brands. However, at the company’s core lies a deeper issue that could have long-lasting implications to it’s brand:  A tepid approach to corporate social responsibility.

In August, CSR guru Elaine Cohen published a critical review of Nintendo’s mineral procurement, supply chain, carbon emissions, and CSR reporting practices. Calling the company’s CSR report “PR-driven, “data-light” and “shallow,” Cohen pushed Nintendo to “get off the fence” and become an industry leader in corporate sustainability.

In order to maintain it’s brand standing, Nintendo needs to do more to show that it is serious about addressing its environmental and social impact. To do so, it must integrate CSR into the core of the brand; a step that could help Nintendo not only meet the growing ecological considerations of consumers, but revitalize it’s brand identity as a gaming innovator. With the right steps, Nintendo can be playing with power. Ecological power.

Organizations such as Nintendo can benefit by embracing progressive societal initiatives. Brand image and brand loyalty are enhanced when consumers look favorably upon company initiatives that benefit society and the planet. In the case of Nintendo, a comprehensive approach to CSR is an opportunity to strengthen its core brand and differentiate itself from the competition. By adopting a straightforward plan to eliminate it’s dependence on conflict minerals, Nintendo can be a video game company that not only makes people feel good, it actually does good.

The Nintendo Seal of Approval could play an important role in helping the video game giant meet crucial CSR targets.
The Nintendo Seal of Approval could play an important role in helping the video game giant meet crucial CSR targets.

One way of integrating social and environmental responsibility into Nintendo’s brand is by making CSR targets an essential part of the Nintendo Seal of Approval, which ensures both quality and performance to consumers. In the past, Nintendo would not approve games that did not meet this high standard. By including social and environmental KPIs as part of the Nintendo Seal of Approval, it can end questionable rare mineral procurement, decrease net carbon emissions, and sell a product that it can be proud of.

As an established industry leader in gaming, Nintendo is in a rare position. By using it’s industry influence, it can push distributors and third-party developers to be a part a sustainable supply chain and adopt a conflict-free mineral policy that has the potential to become the industry norm.

Andrew Horton-Hall (@hortonhallcsr) is the Founder + CEO of Granola Communications, a ecological marketing communications practice based in Somerville, Mass. Granola Communications works with organizations to align their brands with the ecological considerations of consumers. More information on Granola Communications can be found here.

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