THE BLOG

Corporate Social Responsibility for the Digital Age

13/01/2014 13:14 GMT | Updated 11/03/2014 09:59 GMT

How does technology align with charity, and what does your CSR strategy say about your business values?

Today's business landscape is increasingly transparent, meaning that the pressure is on for companies to demonstrate accountability. Thanks to the rise of social media, companies are more visible to consumers than ever before; information can spread quickly and virally. It is therefore important to align the brand with positive messages and causes that demonstrate the brand's core values to today's digital audiences. Quality, customer service and ethical operations are all factors that must be considered when building a positive brand message. However, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is equally as important. In addition to driving positive change, an effective and innovative CSR strategy can be a great way for a company to proactively show that its actions are directly responsible for giving back to the global community at large.

As such, a company's decision to engage in CSR activities is a complex business decision that must be considered as carefully as any other decision that will go on to affect the business and how it is viewed by the public. It's important that the CSR activity a company chooses is aligned with greater brand values. A company must ask itself why it is intent on supporting a particular cause. Does the cause align deeply with the company's corporate DNA? Does the charity that the company is supporting tie into an industry that the company is involved in? For example, oil companies will often choose to support research into alternative energies as part of their CSR programme, whereas large retailers will look to support charities that champion garment workers' safety.

In choosing a cause to support for WeSEE, we were looking to support something aligned with technology and innovation since those are two key areas that define our company's product and philosophy. When deciding on a CSR initiative, we were looking at something that would positively impact the community but also carry forth this spirit of innovation, since those are our company's internal values.

It just so happens that charity and digital technology are now intrinsically linked. Technology brings people together across the world, often through social media or video, to spread the word about charitable causes, and mobilising positive change. Small charity movements can often reach great momentum through online sharing. One example of this is Kiva.com, a micro-funding charity that has helped empower millions of people in impoverished countries by mobilising people in developed countries to understand their challenges through online social awareness.

Anyone these days can go online, gather information about a cause they care about, connect with that cause and its supporters using social media and online messaging tools to get involved, either financially or by volunteering their time. Technology has even made the actual fundraising easier with sites like JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving. At WeSEE, we wanted to be a part of that, somehow.

In choosing a charitable endeavour to support, we knew we wanted to foster an endeavour that promoted the same principles as us; innovation and use of technology to connect people around the world. We found the perfect opportunity to do so by sponsoring 2BoysinaBoat, a charity endeavour set up by two childhood friends Luke Birch and Jamie Sparks, who both aged just 21 are the youngest people ever to attempt to row the Atlantic, in support of the Breast Cancer Care charity.

Two fearless men undertaking a record-breaking feat for charity, Luke and Jamie are using digital technology such as social media, live online video streams, and a GPS tracked route to bring people together in support of 2BoysinaBoat. And WeSEE is on board as a corporate sponsor - literally on board as the boys have included our company's logo on their boat and their race gear. They'll be at sea for 50 days, rowing 3,000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Nelson's Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua to raise £100,000 for Breast Cancer Care.

We felt that what 2BoysinaBoat are doing demonstrates a unique way of supporting a cause - through bravery, courage and thinking outside the box to raise awareness. It is that pioneering spirit we wanted to capture with our CSR initiative and the reason why we chose to support them.

For all of these reasons, we think that technology companies in particular have a lot to gain from looking to charitable endeavours to underpin their greater brand strategy. Likewise, charities and not-for-profit organisations would do well to utilise technology and consider tech companies as fantastic potential partners or sponsors. At the end of the day, we're all in it together.

You can support Luke and Jamie at http://www.justgiving.com/2boysinaboat