Gamification is proving to be an innovative method for firms to engage stakeholders in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues.

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More and more companies are implementing gamification into their communication strategies in an attempt to attract the attention of various stakeholder groups to their environmental and sustainability efforts and to deliver innovative and persuasive messages to their audiences.

Engaging stakeholders in environmental and social responsibility efforts is an increasing goal of organizations but a lack of understanding and interest by stakeholders can hamper the effectiveness of these efforts.

Understanding, engagement and interest are not easy to achieve, and traditional CSR communication strategies are not always effective.  As a result, costly CSR investments may not fully yield expected results and important corporate messages about these efforts can get lost in a dense information mass.  

Desire to play

Implementing gamification into business practices capitalizes on the natural human desire to play games. Gamification uses the design elements of games but adapts them for non-game contexts or for non-entertainment purposes in order to create fun and engaging experiences that motivate people or change behavior.  

Game design elements can be social (e.g. need for achievement, curiosity, etc.) and artifactual (e.g. leaderboards, avatars, difficulty levels etc.). Gamification exploits the reinforcement of positive emotions and experiences and can have a great effect on people’s behavior. 

Gamification in Action

Gamification has been implemented successfully in various fields and contexts such as education, health and wellness, crowdsourcing, transportation, civic learning, sustainability, as well as online communities and social networks.

Advertising, marketing, HR, PR and communication specialists are using gamification for various purposes. For instance, to increase awareness of environmental issues, to facilitate sustainable behavior, to improve work efficiency, to increase motivation for learning, to increase information desire, to improve group reflection at early stages of innovation development process, to increase productivity and contribute to social bonding, and to increase user activity and retention.

Among successful examples of gamification used in CSR efforts are Nissan Leaf and Nike Inc.

  • Nissan Leaf’s Carwings Challenge for instance encouraged drivers to compete in environmentally friendly driving; they earn points, badges and statuses for their driving habits and transfer them into tangible rewards.
  • Nike’s Rallies Stronger Every Run campaign was organized to support Challenged Athletes Foundation. For every mile logged on in-store treadmills during the Boston Marathon, Nike donated $100 to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. 

Recipe for CSR Communication

Gamification is a useful tool for wrapping and delivering a CSR campaign. However, it will not compensate for a poor quality campaign. Therefore the primary focus of a CSR campaign should be on quality and content. In order to gamify a CSR campaign, several game elements are particularly important.

Essential components include meaningful narrative within an exciting context, clear goals and rules, valuable rewards, progress tracking, instant feedback, social recognition and communication between people, manageable constraints and achievable tasks, and follow up of users. Not all elements must be in place and it is a task of a manager to tailor various gamified combinations to the specific need of stakeholders.

Gamification is proving to be an innovative and popular method for firms to engage stakeholders in CSR and sustainability issues. According to IDC Energy Insights, 60 percent of worldwide retailers in the energy sector will use at least one gamified application by 2016.   

Engaging in fun and games can greatly enhance stakeholder knowledge of environmental matters and increase their involvement in pro-environmental actions. A win-win for business and society.


This article is published in Communication for Leaders No. 2 - 2015 (Link to E-Magazine).

Communication  for Leaders is a Science Communication Magazine published by Centre for Corporate Communication and Department of Communication and Culture at BI Norwegian Business School.


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