AT&T’s CSR Efforts Lack One Strong Texting Message

When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), words are great, but actions are what people remember. The best CSR campaigns are the ones that put companies in the most favorable light, actually make a difference and improve employee morale.

Take the case of AT&T.

AT&T has taken some big steps lately to get the word out about the dangers of texting while driving. They are speaking out and are even working on technologies that will make it impossible to text while driving. While they should be commended for this and have made major strides, still need to take one more major step.

The New York Times recently reported on the actions of Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO, who has been a strong advocate for ending the practice of texting while driving.  He used the forum of a recent investor meeting to speak out against this dangerous practice.

Stephenson has personal knowledge of the issue—someone close to him was involved in an accident resulting from a driver being distracted while texting.

Besides speaking out on the issue, Stephenson’s team at AT&T is about to launch an app that will disable texting on Android and Blackberry phones when they are traveling at over 25 miles-per-hour. Unfortunately this app will not work with iPhones.

It is fantastic that someone as prominent as Stephenson is using his bully pulpit to get the word out about texting and driving. It reflects well both on him and for AT&T as a socially responsible company.

But he needs to take one more step: support laws that would strongly punish those who text and drive. Stephenson prefers “market-driven” solutions to legislative ones, but experts argue that the fear of fines or convictions is a much more effective way of changing behaviors than PR campaigns alone.

Verizon Wireless has fully supported federal and state laws banning texting while driving. AT&T needs to take that big step to corporate social responsibility and join in. It is that kind of action that speaks volumes.

Follow Jon Gelberg: @Jon_Gelberg