Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blogs, Globalization and the Environment

In today's Financial Times there is an interesting piece under Public Relations section (subscribers only) warning companies that:

"the ease of online communication is undermining companies' control of their image and reputation"

The article is called "When blogs put brands at risk".

The general thrust of the article is that the empowerment of "the masses" by the internet is leading to an increase in anti-corporate messages. The article gives the example whereby a google search for Nike brings up a "boycott Nike" site.

The worry for these large corporations is the speed that technology has changed such that a disgruntled employee or activist group can covertly take video footage and have it posted on YouTube or elsewhere within hours (such a video can subsequently be spread across many blogs which in turn can reach many thousands of individuals).

The article then mentions green activists and green blogs (I suppose we come in there somewhere although we are not strictly green nor are we activists).

"Greenpeace now posts videos on YouTube and has a MySpace page. On the US version it currently has more than 27,000 friends".

More generally, they article mentions that "a growing amount of user-generated content relates to human rights, ethics and the environment".

A recent Edelman report attempts to give some numbers and suggests that around 2 million posts were "blogged" on environmental issues in 2006.

So what is the problem? The problem for corporations of course is that bloggers have no accountability. They have no infrastructure, no advertisements and no costs.

To my amusement I have discovered "flogging" for the first time. This is when a corporation instigates a "Fake" blog in an attempt to viral market or target this new younger market. Such attempts are usually uncovered by other eagle eyed bloggers.

From an economic perspective bloggers are in a sense acting as a global monitoring system that can often get where NGO's cannot. It will not be long before videos of sweatshop conditions on multinational factories start appearing or videos of firms dumping waste into rivers.

Such pressure should act as a warning for companies to improve their Corporate Social Responsibility levels to avoid such bad publicity, boycotts and dismayed shareholders.

Environmental blogging should therefore be a force for good as long as we remember not to believe everything or indeed anything we read in a blog.

There is no substitute for detailed research although video evidence is certainly persuasive.

In this increasingly globalised world the internet is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for the man in the street to apply pressure to the large corporations and to keep them on their toes. The playing field in becoming flatter.

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