Publicado el
The turning point for a new technology is when we stop talking about bits, bytes or bandwidth, and start talking about what it can really do to for business, individuals or society. When we look at the tools Web 2.0 represents, they have the potential to be game changing for those working to advance a progressive vision of the relationship of business to society. By Steve Rochlin and James Farrar

This progressive vision we have asks companies to be accountable for things it does – good, bad, or indifferent – to the environment, our communities, employees, or individuals. What constitutes "good" or "bad" is subject to negotiation among a business’s stakeholders – those who could be significantly affected by the way a business behaves, which may include investors, customers, employees, local residents, etc.

This vision asks business to report transparently on both the harms and benefits business creates. It asks business to contribute positively to improve environmental sustainability, development opportunities of low income individuals, and overall quality of life. And finally, it expects a company to make these efforts in ways that can benefit its own competitive advantage.

Since this vision bolts squarely on to big global challenges such as climate change, energy policy, poverty, access to education, human rights, disaster relief and recovery, and numerous other concerns, Web 2.0 tools could be a godsend for work on these specific issues. But too many of us are playing the role of late adopters – if not out-and-out sceptics.

Web 2.0 – or social media – describes a variety of tools, platforms, and systems. We know them by names such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Wikipedia, blogs, YouTube, Second Life, and myriad other examples. They enable communication to become affordable for the masses by building communities, offering ways to share information and transfer knowledge, and helping streamline collaboration.

These tools also enable us to kill a lot of time. They help people dissociate from reality while enabling herd mentality. They prey on our trust and invade our privacy. They force us to look at videos of slumbering housecats.

Regardless of what the positives and negatives may be, we either get involved in utilising Web 2.0 as a powerful instrument to advance sustainability via the business and society relationship, or we don’t. It is up to us to help make Web 2.0 into something meaningful. We think there are at least three important ways in which this happens:

First, Web 2.0 will make it profoundly easier for companies and their stakeholders to engage in meaningful dialogue. Solving the challenges of sustainable development requires us to encourage strange bedfellows to get together. A decade ago if you brought together a company, an activist non-governmental organisation (NGO), and a government agency, you were guaranteed to create tension. Today, these oddly matched partners generate innovation out of positive, creative tension. Web 2.0 platforms make it easier to build such diverse communities that use different experience and perspective to create innovative solutions. It can connect the enterprise to society and broader stakeholders in a way that it can understand stakeholder concerns, respond, and optimise or change performance accordingly.

Consider SAP’s experience. Web 2.0 platforms have enabled a community of 1.2m people to join the SAP Developer Network. On their own volition, community members approached SAP, suggesting the membership incentive programme for participation be redeemable in the form of cash support for the UN World Food Programme’s Food For Education initiative. It is just one small example of how Web 2.0 can bring people together in enlightened self interest without a penny changing hands.

As an implication, we need collective effort to encourage public investment in the communications infrastructure that allows Web 2.0 systems to work. This also means encouraging all governments to open up and accept these communication tools without censorship or monitoring. And it means giving a variety of citizens broader access to use these tools to engage with those making decisions that could affect their lives.

Second, Web 2.0 will make it easier for companies to track and report their impacts on the environment and society more broadly. Web 2.0 allows a company to put reporting information live online, and launch a dialogue with the public. A wiki process gives stakeholders the opportunity to debate whether a company has identified the most "material" environmental and social issues, covered the ground in how it thinks about these issues, and adequately responded to them.

Third, Web 2.0 will make it profoundly easier for companies to collaborate with each other, with NGOs, government agencies, stakeholders and larger communities to solve problems. is one example that has received a lot of attention. This ingenious site allows users all over the world to make small loans to low income entrepreneurs in some of the poorest places on earth.

We have some amazing tools at our disposal. Whether we use them to construct the kind of society we all want to live, work, play, and do business is up to us.

Steve Rochlin is head of AccountAbility North America, which promotes accountability for sustainable development. James Farrar is vice president for Corporate Citizenship at SAP. With the support of SAP, AccountAbility and Redmonk, a social media industry analyst, are leading an initaitive with Business for Social Responsibility and the International Business Leaders Forum to understand the potential for Web 2.0 to enable the responsible performance of the enterprise

By Steve Rochlin and James Farrar


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

En este artículo se habla de:

¡Comparte este contenido en redes!

Este sitio utiliza cookies de terceros para medir y mejorar su experiencia.
Tu decides si las aceptas o rechazas:
Más información sobre Cookies