Eco-Advantage Blog

January 19, 2007 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Powerful New Stakeholders...U.S. and China

Today the Wall Street Journal reported on an important partnership between the NRDC and some big companies (Alcoa, DuPont, GE, Duke Energy, and others) to lobby Congress and President Bush on climate change. They want action, including a possible cap on emissions. Now this is legitimately big news in both green and regular business news. But, oddly, it’s not the story that really surprised me in the Journal. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a big deal when big energy users, including coal plant owners, push for emissions control. But these companies are all on record already in favor of these measures. And, amazingly, this kind of ‘who’d of thunk it?’ partnership and pro-green effort is getting commonplace. These companies are creating a new kind of interest group, a new stakeholder in these debates.

But another story made this new kind of business stakeholder seem almost quaint from day 1. The story titled “It’s Called the Forbidden City for a Reason” tells the story of Chinese blogger Rui Chenggang and his recent post that Starbucks should not have an store “inside Beijing’s hallowed Forbidden City.” In one week, his note was viewed half a million times and sparked a national debate. He contacted Starbucks’ CEO, got a response about how the company respects the history, etc. With Starbucks’ OK, Rui posted the reply for all to read.

Does this sound like any “normal” interaction between a big company and media? How about between a company and a customer? No, this is now something completely different.

The forces of transparency and technology are empowering people in entirely new ways. And a community that didn’t exist until recently, bloggers, is now a major force on environmental and social issues. Companies that don’t manage these newly defined groups of stakeholders are in for a surprise. But luckily for business, there’s help. The Journal article goes on to quote someone from a “Shanghai-based blogging consultancy”.

What?

That entire phrase made me stop and stare into space thinking (in part about what flat-worlder Thomas Friedman would say about this one). Shanghai-based blogging? And blogging consultancy? Either one sounds like it’s made up, but it’s extremely telling. We’re in a new media and influence world.

 

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