Discussing CSR challenges online with relevant stakeholder groups is a challenging task for many companies in Germany. The measures companies use to collect stakeholder feedback and opinions are limited to surveys, questionnaires and expert discussions. If a company wants to get a more thorough picture of what stakeholders think, there is also a need to offer stakeholders the opportunity to put forward opinions in an "unfiltered" manner.
To address this challenge, O2 through UPJ (an intermediary organisation) has set-up a website (please see link below) where companies can present "burning" CSR topics to stakeholder groups offering them the opportunity to discuss their opinions.
The website contains a forum for discussion amongst the users and comments on the current topic from experts. In addition, the website provides latest research and other publications on the issue to foster a diverse and well-grounded opinion building process amongst the participants.
The website is not integrated with O2’s own online portal, but instead run by UPJ. The website is open for companies to put CSR-related issues forward for discussion. O2 and UPJ have established a process that ensures the quality of the discussion. The company puts forward the required insights and stakeholders to be targeted and UPJ phrases the question to be discussed and invites targeted participants.
A discussion usually runs for about 4-5 weeks and is facilitated by UPJ. After the discussion, UPJ analyses the participants' statements and delivers a comprehensive report to the company. All participants receive a short summary of the results as well as details on how the company uses the insights gained from the online discussion. An offline-event with experts and participants from the online discussion can be a good opportunity to discuss the results in more detail. UPJ also provides the opportunity to set up offline focus groups on specific details.
The pilot-discussion revealed some necessary improvements concerning the technical flexibility and the design of the website. The website will be re-launched incorporating the necessary improvements.
The pilot-discussion was very successful. Having a third party like UPJ moderating the online-discussion, rather than the company doing it is a critical success-factor. Also the fact that the users get a feedback about the results and how they are used by the company is an important feature.