The Long Tail of CSR:
Achieving Scalability in Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility
Article by Wayne Visser
I recently read The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson and it started me thinking: What is the Long Tail of CSR? The Long Tail – named after the extended tail of a statistical distribution curve – is the idea that selling less to more people is big business. It’s the business model that has spawned the most successful companies of the Web 2.0 age. The Long Tail questions the conventional wisdom that says success is about generating ‘blockbusters’ and ‘superstars’ – those rare few products and services that become runaway bestsellers.
Anderson sums up his message by saying that:
- the tail of available variety is longer than we think;
- it’s now within reach economically; and
- all those niches, when aggregated, can make up a significant market.
He also notes that this Long Tail revolution has been made possible by the digital age, which has dramatically reduced the costs of customised production and niche distribution.
There are three enablers of successful long tail businesses, according to Anderson:
- democratising the tools of production (e.g. digi-cams, content editing software, blogging tools);
- democratising the tools of distribution (e.g. Amazon, eBay, iTunes, Netflix); and
- connecting supply and demand (e.g. Google, blogs, Rotten Tomatoes).
So how might this apply to CSR? To me, the Long Tail of CSR is all about extending the reach of CSR, and improving its ability to satisfy specific social and environmental needs. Let’s use Anderson’s enablers as a framework for thinking about this …
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Cite this article
Visser, W. (2008) The Long Tail of CSR: Achieving Scalability in Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 5.