Apr 19 2011

Social Media as Corporate Whistlerblower

Many of my readers know that I also own a business blog that publishes content on the use of Social Media in the corporate, charitable and retail world. I do the research, summarize what I’ve learned and post articles to help anyone who would like to learn more about Social Media and its applications.

This blog is a little more personal. I use this space to offer up opinion and illicit action from my readers. I want people to find out something they don’t know when they come here. Something that may persuade them to take action.

Again, I do the research and share it with you.

In the case of Tim Horton’s lack of social responsibility I have not only done the research offline, at the retail level, but I have also done searches for things like “Tim Hortons Sustainability” and anything else that might lead to a reprieve for Tim’s store-level policy.

This week I found a site called 3BL Media. Quoting directly from their website: “We are the experts in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and cause marketing communications. Our experienced team of professionals has helped leading organizations, both large and small, from all corners of the globe get their message out. We are dedicated to helping businesses have a positive influence on society and the environment through information sharing that leverages technology and social media.”

When I read that I thought “great, a company that insists on social responsibility when iterating, or re-iterating, about the policies employed by organizations.”

What I learned was that they are, instead, a portal for companies to push their initiatives to a larger audience. Specifically an audience that actively looks for socially responsible corporations to support.

Ok, so that wouldn’t be a bad thing except that the experts at 3BL Media don’t actually screen or comment on the material they post. In fact, if you have a company that you’d like to promote on their site you can write the press release yourself (they don’t seem to offer that service) then submit it. I have not been able to determine if there is a fee for this service.

Essentially sites like 3BL Media are used for distributing media but I don’t see where the “responsibility” part comes in if companies like Tim Hortons can simply post their material and automatically have a degree of credibility simply by being featured on the site.

This didn’t sit very well with me. I wrote to the CEO of the company, Greg Schneider, and he had his Online Media Director get back to me. I was quite distressed to read several parts of John Howell’s email but this line was particularly confusing to me. “3BL Media is dedicated to corporate social responsibitiy-, sustainability-, and ESG -related missions, practices, initiatives, and events. Environmental issues are part of our focus, but we are not dedicated to the environment, per se.”


So you promote companies that “claim” to be socially responsible and sustainable but you don’t place much focus on environmental issues? Ummm, did I miss something?

Here’s the bottom line; Tim Hortons cannot get their corporate initiatives out of the boardroom and into the restaurants. Rather than spend the money and time to do so, they prefer to spread endless corporate doublespeak around the net and hope that it will be sufficient to quiet their detractors.

Perhaps the fact that no one from Tims has tried to contact me is an indication that their corporate policy on online branding is to ignore complaints. Seems so.

While I am deeply ashamed of Tims I am equally distressed that an American company like 3BL Media (located in Mass.) seems to just take the word of companies promoting themselves as “responsible” on their site.

Who’s next? BP?

If Social Media can affect change we can start by showing Tims (and 3BL Media) that’s it’s not OK to say you’re going to do it. We need to insist they live up to their policies. We need to be vocal and loud and engaged. We need to share!

Please share this article with anyone you feel might be interested in TRUE CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY.

Apr 8 2011

Tim Hortons “Sustainability Report” Full of Corporate Rhetoric

At the beginning of this week I wrote a blog post about Tim Horton’s dreadful sustainability efforts.

I haven’t heard from Tim’s.

I realize it may sound somewhat snooty to think that I would but if Tim Hortons has a social media team that monitors their brand online then there is really no reason why they should not be able to find the article and comment, or at the very least, contact me.

In fact, rather than being passive aggressive I also tried to add Director of Public Affairs, David Morelli, to my Linked In network, sending him a link to the article for his perusal.

Still nothing.

I heard today that a friend has forwarded the article to someone that should know if Tims is monitoring their brand online. Again, nothing.

So despite my efforts to get this in front of the corporate team (I even posted it, with a link, on their Facebook page and received “likes” from the general public.) I have heard nothing.

What’s even more interesting is that today Tim Hortons, through their Facebook page, announced their Sustainability and Responsibility Report.


While I applaud the notion of such a report I am dismally disappointed in this execution. The first 20 pages are filled with corporate cheerleading and pats on the back for their great initiatives. There are lots of nice graphs too, to break up the monotony of the 85 pages of “Look how great we’re doing!”.


I’m so much more disappointed now than I was before this report was published. First of all, who wants to read 85 pages of this nonesense when all one has to do to see if Tim Hortons is sustainable is simply walk a block or two to the nearest restaurant and take a look in the garbage bin?

Secondly, it’s clear this report has been written to applaud the corporate initiatives to shareholders and board members. It’s not written for the general public and it’s either laziness or apathy that has allowed someone to post this to their site and claim it answers all the sustainability questions.

There are pages and pages on what they have been doing to create this report. How the “commitment” and “goals” have been determined. And while they claim that sustainability is written into their core values one is hard-pressed to understand if they simply mean sustaining Tim Hortons restaurants rather than any sort of environmental responsibility.

Come on Tim Hortons! We want you to succeed. We want you to be a leader in Canada. We’re cheering for you! Why aren’t you paying attention to us?

Believe me, I know the frustration of bureaucratic paralysis. I get that pushing initiatives through a giant corporate machine is an exercise in patience and manipulation. But this is too important to make such a mess of.

I’m confident that I could put together a team of trainers and experts who could turn Tims into a corporate leader rather than an embarrassment to those of us who believe that Canada deserves a better role model.