Filed under: Africa, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Development, Supply Chain | Tags: Advertising, Africa, Coca-Cola, development, farming, poverty, SABMiller, supply chain, Uganda
I spent last week in Uganda, meeting the far end of the supply chain. We drove up to ten hours a day to talk to small-holder farmers at the end of very long dirt tracks. I’ll do a proper write up in due course, in the meantime here’s a few pics.
The farmers of the Nyakoi Stores Farmers Group, gathered to meet us:
Their Mission and Vision – clearly the result of some facilitation, although I love their motto:
Lucy and me at a sorgum farm – as if we have a clue what we’re actually looking at:
Me with the kids of the sorgum farmers – who are all now in school because the sorgum crops have a guaranteed buyer in SABMiller:
Lucy and me after a meeting with passion fruit farmers:
It was amazing to see what it really means when a big company like SABMiller reinvents its business model to get an affordable, secure supply of raw ingredients in a way that benefits the farmers, or the impact that Coca-Cola is having in its work with Technoserve. This is what a “sustainable supply chain” is really all about.
Coca-Cola is running a massive pan-African ad campaign right now – “A billion reasons to believe in Africa”. The TV ad feels a bit cheap and is full of cliches, but the sentiment is great. It feels like we met a few reasons to believe in Africa last week.
Filed under: Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship | Tags: Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Kraft, Nestle, Oil, Tobacco
The Conformist is a 1970′s Bertolucci movie set in 1930s Italy. It’s about an ordinary bloke who becomes a murdering fascist – incrementally, just by following his desire to fit in. He doesn’t really do anything – he just goes along with what’s going on.
I’ve been thinking of this recently, looking at how big corporates respond when their fundamental business is under attack. Of course, there’s a very murky history:
- The oil industry funded a network of fake citizens’ groups and bogus scientific bodies to discredit climate science. This did an enormous amount of damage by confusing the public debate. Greenpeace did a great investigative job of mapping the flow of dollars on the website ExxonSecrets.
- The tobacco industry fought a long and under-hand battle to prevent the banning of smoking in public places, funding a “grassroots” movement and then forming the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition – here’s an archive of the TASSC website.
- The infant formula industry, led by Nestle, are critcized by the likes of UNICEF and Save The Children. They seem to avoid the under-handed, and have set-up an industry body – the International Association of Baby Food Manufacturers, with a stated objective “to protect and promote the health of infants” – a statement that causes a chill to pass down the spine, rather like leaving an elderly aunt in the care of Dr. Harold Shipman.
I always try to imagine the individuals involved in these dubious endeavours – just like The Conformist, not especially bad people, but losing their grip on any moral realities, step by step. But is this changing? Maybe a new conformity is setting in: doing the right thing.
Yes this sounds niave, but consider the latest industry to come under attack: the processed, packaged food business, which stands accused of causing an obesity epidemic in the US. The bad press has reached a crescendo: Obesity Costs the US $270 Billion a Year (New York Post), Obesity: a National Security Threat? (CNN), Michelle Obama’s ‘Spotlight’ on Obesity (Business Week).
The response of the industry appears more positive – starting with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, Founding with $20m by Kraft, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Unilever and others. It has a big, bold goal: to Reduce Annual Calories By 1.5 Trillion By 2015. The members aim to deliver this through product development, and through a range of initiatives, such as campaigns in schools, in the workplace, funding research, and even large donations to National Parks (for outdoor activities, I assume).
Inevitably, people will still criticize companies like Kraft and Coca-Cola for making essentially unhealthy products – but the way they’re responding to criticism shows that something has changed. It seems as though the old corporate defense mechanisms have been set aside, in favour of a more collaborative, constructive response. Nobody wants to work for a brand that people deface, like this Coke Love poster. Optimistic maybe, but could it be that doing the right thing is the new corporate conformity?
Filed under: Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Economics | Tags: Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship
The first post on this blog last year was called 2010: Year of Corporate Social Opportunity. Well, was it?
It was certainly the year of big profit: corporate profits hit a new all time high in Q3 2010 – across the board, with especially big profits for the banks and big multinationals (the Great Recession sharpened up their skill at attracting revenues whilst avoiding tax).
The data below looks impressive – a resilient business sector, bouncing back, adapting fast, turning around. Still, there’s something deeply wrong with this picture. What about job creation? What about our overwhelming public debts? And not least, what about our suffering natural world? You can’t help but feel that these profits are made at the expense of society, not for its benefit.
This bleak picture is recognized by the high priest of business thinking, Michael Porter, writing in this month’s Harvard Business Review. The front page boasts How to Fix Capitalism, and Porter’s article is modestly titled The Big Idea: Creating Shared Value.
Reading this is cause for hope. In the business world, Porter is the establishment. He’s a courier to the most powerful business leaders. When we were in Rwanda, he was spotted having supper in Kigali with President Paul Kagame. People listen to Michael Porter.
So what’s his big idea? His article reads like a summary of themes I’ve been discussing with clients and on this blog, throughout the past year. He articulates is very clearly. Here’s how:
Not all profit is equal… Profits involving a social purpose represent a higher form of capitalism… The result is a positive cycle of company and community prosperity, which leads to profits that endure.
Love it! More specifically:
- “Corporate Social Responsibility” isn’t enough, it’s peripheral, not linked in to core business – see my post The business of business is business.
- The line between for-profit and nonprofit organizations needs to become blurred if corporates are to build economic and social value – see my post Profit? Or not for profit? Who cares.
- The most profitable companies will be the ones who build social value, not destroy it – see my post Good business is better business.
It’s great to hear these ideas authoritatively argued by Porter. After all, he’s at the epicenter of global capitalism. So, was 2010 the year of “corporate social opportunity”? Well, it was certainly the year that the idea of creating social value became business dogma.
But hang on, Michael Porter – wasn’t it his disciples that got us into this mess in the first place…?
What can do-gooders in Africa learn from Coca-Cola? That’s the question Melinda Gates asked at last week’s TEDxChange in New York (although she phrased it a little differently). The answer? The power of aspirational marketing.
Behaviour change is at the heart of improving lives in Africa. As I’m learning with the Nike Foundation, there’s no point in building schools if kids think learning is pointless. The problem, according to Melinda Gates, is with how behaviour change is marketed:
It’s based on avoidance, not aspirations. I’m sure you’ve heard some of these messages: use a condom, don’t get aids; wash your hands, you might not get diarrhea. But we make a mistake. We make a fundamental assumption: that if people need something, we don’t have to make them want it.
You might think this is stating the obvious – but it seems to a breakthrough for Africa-charity types. So, what would Coca-Cola do? Well, I worked on the brand for five years, so you’d think I could answer that. Here goes, using two examples:
First, Coke advertising doesn’t work on a rational level at all. It’s not about messaging. It’s all very emotional stuff. Take this ad, Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La, which we made at Mother in 2008 (the best Coke ad ever, according to no higher authority than Kanye West). It’s pure summer nonsense, playful and strange, and works at a very visceral level.
Second, marketing weaves Coca-Cola into the fabric of popular culture. Sounds like a big statement, but it works: take this ad, The Greatest Gift, which we made in 2006 to run alongside the “Holidays Are Coming” commercials, to make Coca-Cola seem like an inextricable part of the Christmas season.
So what’s all this got to do with education, contraception, sanitation, etc? Well, it’s about making an emotional connection, and embedding it in the culture. Melinda Gates gave a good example: a campaign in India to get people to build toilets in their houses:
The problem: only half of all Indians have access to toilets – not a great start for hygiene – and people ignore messages about the risks of not building a bathroom in your home.
The solution: link toilets to courtship – yes, really – a campaign to persuade young women only to marry men who promise to install a bathroom. The endline: no loo, no I do.
Both Coca-Cola and Nike have long been lightning rods for anti-capitalism. I wonder what Naomi Klein thinks of using the dark arts of branding to for pro-social ends.
Header image: some aspirational associations for Addis Ababa, as Ethiopian t-shirt makers Bernos co-opt the Coca-Cola logo. They’re also working on creating some aspirational icons of their own…
Filed under: Apple, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Ethical Consumerism, Google | Tags: Apple, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Google
This killer chart comes from Business In The Community – it shows that companies in their CR Index outperform the FTSE-350. If you’re a shareholder in one of these companies, you’d be getting an average of 10 percentage points higher shareholder return.
Good business is better business – we’ve been banging on about this for a while now, and this seems like pretty good evidence. There are three possible reasons for this.
- Strong pro-social performance suggests forward-thinking management. These companies are probably better managed overall, and better able to bounce back.
- These companies have already embedded sustainability into their operations – and are probably reaping cost efficiencies already.
- They’re also embedding pro-social objectives into their core business development – companies like Unilever and M&S using it to engage consumers and grow new markets.
So, being good is a predictor of business performance. Last week also saw the release of the fifth annual ImagePower Green Brands Survey (as if “green” were all that mattered). It surveyed 9,000 consumers in eight countries – and some familiar names topped the list: Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, Ikea and Apple were among the brands considered among the greenest alongside Google and grocery retailer Whole Foods.
You can bet there are some gaps between perception against reality here: some brands aren’t nearly as green as people might think (e.g., Apple), and others are more pro-social than you might imagine (e.g., Coca-Cola). Understanding these differences might unlock some interesting ideas.
Filed under: Coca-Cola, Mother, Youth | Tags: Coca-Cola, London 2012, Mother, Olympics
The 2012 Olympics were supposed to be all about young people. During the bid, Tony Blair told the IOC that London could inspire global youth to improve their lives through sport: “it is a city with a voice that talks to young people”. Nice vision – but it doesn’t mean much to kids in east London.
That was the subject of Wednesday’s panel discussion at Mother – chaired by Wired editor Ben Hammersley, with panelists including Ruth MacKenzie (head of the Cultural Olympiad), Thomas Godfrey (Sport England), and Chantelle Fiddy (editor of Ctrl.Alt.Shift).
Chantelle set the tone by describing young people as “just observers” to the Olympics. Even this seems optimistic: this film by an east London school shows local kids have a very sketchy understanding of the Olympics: half of them thought the event lasts two years. One girl tells us “last time it happened, some short girl won”.
The Olympic organization embodies everything that “youth culture” rejects: it’s a massive, litigious, command-and-control machine – quasi-corporate and quasi-governmental. In a them-and-us world, the Olympics is definitely them not us. Charlie Tims from Demos stood up and talked about the need to “de-institutionalize the Olympics”; somebody else talked about “open source Olympics”. All good… but how?
Two ideas that could help London 2012 connect with young people:
- First, maybe start with something young people actually enjoy, like…. cheerleading. Yes, really. According to Thomas Godfrey, it’s sweeping the nation. Dance too, like Stratford’s Pied Piper production, which moved to the Barbican last year. All this is the opposite of the Olympics; it’s pro-am, communal, informal – not elite professionals.
- Second, maybe show some values that young people actually share. Ruth talked about the idea of the Olympic Truce, the laying down of arms before the games, setting aside differences. Ben read out some of the Olympic Charter, words like friendship, solidarity, fair play, respect, “a strong body, mind and will” – all words that mean something in a divided, gang-culture world.
If the London 2012 can’t connect with young people on it’s own doorstep, fat chance of inspiring global youth. Our Coca-Cola clients were there. Coke is one of the top-tier sponsors… maybe they can help turn the rhetoric of the 2012 bid into a reality for young people around the world.
Image courtesy of Dave Hill
Filed under: Advertising, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Happiness, Pepsi, Youth | Tags: Advertising, charity, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Happiness, Pepsi
No it’s not a flashback to the Obama election – it’s Pepsi’s Refresh Everything campaign. Instead of a big-bucks 30 second Superbowl spot this year, Pepsi decided to give $1.3 million to good causes, allowing consumers to vote on who should get what. The results are announced on March 1st.
Pepsi follows the example of TripAdvisor: in 2008, more than a million people voted on how they should give away $1 million in their More Than Footprints campaign.
It’s a big move for a brand like Pepsi – very different from the usual big budget Britney ad. It could be the latest sign of a shift in society’s attitudes around advertising. The think-tank Compass published a report this week called The Advertising Effect, the latest to argue that advertising fuels our voracious consumerism – which doesn’t really make us happy.
It’s the old AdBuster’s thought, but it’s gaining academic weight: the report pulls together Dr. David Myer’s studies on happiness, as well as work by Prof. Richard Layard and of course Oliver James. There’s also interesting input from organizations such as The Children’s Society:
One factor that may be leading to rising mental health problems is the increasing degree to which children and young people are preoccupied with possessions; the latest in fashionable clothes and electronic equipment… Evidence both from the United States and from the UK suggests that those most influenced by commercial pressures also show higher rates of mental health problems.
Against this background, Pepsi’s decision to ditch Superbowl looks progressive – let’s hope the new approach delivers the sales volumes. It challenges all of us to find positive ways to drive sales for our clients. Interesting that all this coincides with some very encouraging comments by PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi talking to the FT about the company’s “license from society”:
“We’re constantly watching the changing societal trends and looking at the interplay between corporations and societies… [in] Davos, both this year and last, everybody is talking about the new rules of capitalism, [which] are, don’t just think about the company within the four walls of the company, think about your obligations to society.”
The Compass report starts from a marketing-is-evil presumption. They want to ban lots of advertising. That’s just a lack of imagination. The answer isn’t no advertising, but good advertising. The real challenge is to find positive ways to engage consumers, which enhances their lives and builds business for our clients.
Filed under: Apple, Banks, Coca-Cola, Google, Pharma, Vodafone | Tags: Apple, Banks, Coca-Cola, disaster relief, Google, Pharma, Vodafone
Are they genuine good neighbours, or just jumping on the help-Haiti bandwagon? Who cares if the result is positive. Big brands are queueing up to help – here are some of the ways they’re doing it.
In response to requests from relief agencies, Google has released a new layer on Google Earth showing pre/post earthquake satellite images. Google has also set up a person-finder service and donated $1 million to relief agencies.
Coke can bottle water on a mass scale – a real lifeline. After the 2004 Tsunami, Coke’s bottlers and distributors provided safe drinking water to many of the effected areas. In 2007, Coke provided 1.5 million liters of bottled water to victims of the floods in Mexico. Coke says it’s bottling plant in the Dominican Republic is providing water to Haiti, and the company has also donated $1 million to relief efforts.
T-Mobile has received a lot of coverage for it’s announcement on Thursday of free calls to Haiti for customers trying to connect with ” loved ones in Haiti during the aftermath”.
The games developer behind MafiaWars and FarmVille, Zynga has over 40 million daily users. By integrating donation into the gameplay, Zynga has so far raised over $1.2 million to the UN Food Programme- and this is expected to be a lot higher.
Big-pharma companies stand accused of exploiting the developing world through drugs-trial programmes and the high price of patented AIDS medication. Against this background, AstraZeneca is providing supplies of antibiotics and respiratory medication to the relief effort.
Vodafone has long-standing partnerships with Oxfam and Telecom Sans Frontiers, providing emergency telecommunications for disaster relief – and teams of telecoms engineers are currently in Haiti.
…AND THE BANKS?
The big banks are definitely still in the dog house. You might think they’d want to show their caring side by joining the help-Haiti brigade – but no, aside from a smattering of donations that don’t add up to a mid-level bonus: JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs each donated $1 million. Indeed, Huffington Post estimates that US banks and credit card companies have been actually making money out of disasters, earning around £250 million a year on charitable donations. The article prompted Visa, Mastercard and Amex to waive fees for the Haiti appeal.
A list of other random corporate contributions is in this Reuters “fact box“.
Filed under: Advertising, Climate Change, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Ethical Consumerism, Uncategorized, WWF | Tags: Advertising, Climate Change, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Ethical Consumerism, Mother, WWF
Will this be the year that social moves to the centre of corporate strategy? Corporate Social Opportunity, not just CSR window dressing? Coca-Cola is one of our biggest clients at Mother – and an example of the enlightened self-interest dawning in many boardrooms.
Above is an image of a defaced Mother ad for Coke – it sums up the ambivalent position that the brand occupies in our culture: the sunny optimistic pop icon, and the exploitative corporate. However, in a New York Times article called “WIll Big Business Save The Earth?”, Jarod Diamond argues that Coke is one of many corporates becoming increasingly interested in making a change:
The embrace of environmental concerns by chief executives has accelerated recently for several reasons. Lower consumption of environmental resources saves money in the short run. Maintaining sustainable resource levels and not polluting saves money in the long run. And a clean image — one attained by, say, avoiding oil spills and other environmental disasters — reduces criticism from employees, consumers and government.
He gives as an example Coke’s partnership with WWF on water sustainability, working on seven of the world’s river basins, including the Rio Grande, Yangtze, Mekong and Danube — all major environmental concerns. Why? Has Jonathan Mildenhall taken up fly-fishing?
Coke has bottling plants in around 200 countries – and water is the main ingredient. But water supplies are under pressure from growing populations, agriculture and climate change. No water, no Coke: the company’s new love affair with WWF isn’t just a PR position, it’s about protecting the business’ future.
Bruce Mau talks about his work with Coke in last month’s Wired UK. He says that “the potential for Coca-Cola to create a powerful social movement and to change the world is enormous”. But getting that to happen, he adds, is “like a turning around a very big ship”. It’s turning: in 2009 Coke launched plant-based recyclable bottles, and also committed to cut carbon emissions by 15% by 2020.
This isn’t just about neutralizing the negative effects of doing business: Coke has considerable reach, and this can be a force for good. Coke employs around 1 million people globally, and has a formidable distribution network: organizations like ColaLife are campaigning for the company to make more of this.
Ultimately, companies like Coke will only grow through a positive social agenda. Shareholder activism, citizen journalism, competition for talent, ethical consumerism – the pressures on corporates to be good citizens has never been greater.
As 2010 begins, the forward-thinking corporates will already be planning for the upturn: reassessing, regrouping, doing their wargaming and scenario planning. They’ll be busy looking for the threats and opportunities – and the smart ones will be having an important realization: their future is all about the societies they operate in, and the planet we live on.