Why give money to good causes if your customers don’t know about it? The answer, global corporations are discovering, is to crowd-source with them.
Today, H&M will announce an online poll that lets customers decide where the fashion chain’s philanthropic arm should spend $78 million.
“We felt that it was important to know what people consider vital," explains Helena Thybell, Global Manager for H&M Conscious Foundation. “And it’s a good way of creating engagement: what are people passionate about? There are lots of people around the world who really care and are concerned about the future of the planet.”
Other consumer product giants such as Ford and Pepsi have already tried crowd-sourced philanthropy. “It accomplishes the company’s goal of making their customers aware of their CSR [corporate social responsibility]," notes Mari Kuraishi, Co-Founder and President of Globalgiving.org, which connects ordinary people with good causes that suit their taste.
H&M’s online poll (makeadifference.hm.com) lets customers choose between five different areas, ranging from clean water to women’s empowerment, that have been chosen by a panel of experts including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. H&M Conscious Foundation will then commit to a multi-year engagement in the top three areas.
“We think this is a great way to empower our staff and customers," H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson tells Metro. “Their votes will have a real impact as they determine what the H&M Conscious Foundation should focus on the coming years.”
But, while online voting involving your favorite merchant might be fun, how much good will the resulting projects do? Doesn’t corporate philanthropic crowdsourcing amount to window-dressing, a nice publicity stunt that doesn’t yield many results for the recipients? In some cases it may, says Kuraishi, but it also gets philanthropy and CSR on consumers’ agenda: “If consumers are involved, they’ll talk about it with their friends. By contrast, you wouldn’t dig up a company’s CSR report and talk about it with your friends at the pub.”