I just stumbled across this - even though its been running for about a year it doesn't seem to have generated much noise - most of the blog mentions I found about this were MS developer blogs.
Which is a shame - because it is a GOOD THING.
The I'M Initiative from Microsoft donates a percentage of the advertising revenues it brings in from Live Messenger conversations to social cause organisations.
You sign up, choose a cause, and then everytime you start an IM conversation, some money goes to your cause. Thus far the activity has raised >$850k. Change the world or go home indeed.
One of the blogs that has picked up on this suggested this was hypocrisy - that it locks users into using bug ridden software to give pennies to charity.
And this is something I hear a lot - cynicism about brands doing socially conscious promotions to build their business on the back of 'consumer' desire to do good.
Of course they are. They are businesses. All they care about is money. That's the function of business - to generate profits.
The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.
It doesn't matter whether or not you think Milton Friedman was right. That's the way businesses operate - their responsibility is to deliver profit for their shareholders.
The only way I've managed to engage senior clients in a corporate social responsibility discussion is by positioning it as a strategic business function that will deliver long term shareholder value.
[Typical response I've had from a CEO to a mention of CSR ideas without the value preamble: "But - we pay loads of taxes. Isn't that enough?"]
In marketing terms it was a strategic point of differentiation and added value - its increasingly becoming a competitive necessity - because we, as a consumer base, are more concerned and willing to move our money to reflect that.
To a degree. As I mentioned before, most ethical consumerism is founded on the idea of Low Impact Ethics - if we all really wanted to change everything we'd, well, change everything.
Some brands that have sprung up since the mass awakening of social consciousness have socially responsible profitability at their core but the mega brands are relics or a less conscious age - they are dinosaurs - perfectly evolved to extract profits from, not help, the world.
Our role is to convince these brands that the best way to make money in the world today is to cater to the growing consumer need for emotional added value in purchases - be it social or ecological - that is reflected in the the brands they buy and the premium they are willing to pay.
Companies that do good need to make more money - then more companies will do good.