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.