Guest post for Ethical Value, co-published simultaneously
The Coca-Cola Co. @CocaColaCo “We believe investing in women is the absolute key to economic growth.” Charlotte Oades @USCCFBiz4Good #5by20. #Inspire2Act #IWD2014
Shortly thereafter came this retweet ‘love’ from a very smart man that I respect (who will remain nameless):
RT @CocaColaCo Fm producers #suppliers #distributors #retailers & recyclers we aim to empower 5M women http://CokeURL.com/l2me8 #Inspire2Act
I saw these Tweets and my stomach convulsed. Not that empowering women is a bad thing, no, THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING, but, as Collective Evolution (and many other sources) so aptly points out:
“Coke uses “public relations propaganda” to convince consumers and entire nations that it is an “environmental company” when really it is linked to pollution, water shortages, and disease.”
‘The smart man’ I mention, in RTing this particular Tweet, seems to have bought into the green-washing of Coca-Cola courtesy of their marketing team (as do hundreds of millions of people on a global basis), and this not only stuns me because it is so contrary to “his brand” but also makes me sad and angry. But it is this sentence, from Coca-Cola’s own website, that pushed me over the edge:
“As we move toward our 2020 Vision of doubling our business by 2020, enabling the economic empowerment of women will undoubtedly be an important contributor to our success.”
Let’s be clear, Coca-Cola’s #5X20 initiative isn’t REALLY, altruistically, about lifting women out of poverty it’s about market share, doubling their business, and in doing so, contributing to the health decline of 80% of the worlds’ populations whose average household income is less than $10 (USD) a day! Think about that for a second when the vending machine at your office is likely asking $2 for a single 20 ounce bottle of Coke! So I Tweeted:
#CSR? @CocaColaCo’s #5X20 is actually #causerelatedmarketing NOT #empowerment for #women! #LiesToldOnTwitter
Artwork by Miranda Coss
Just so we are clear this isn’t a prejudice based in a Coke versus Pepsi (or any of their respective other beverage brands) preference; I am not and have never been a big cola drinker, while I do enjoy the occasional Dr. Brown’s, Izze or Orangina I would be willing to bet that my consumption of these amounts to less than a total of ten 16 ounce servings in any given YEAR. I think you should read this about what drinking Coke and Pepsi actually do to the body, and I can only hope you start to view your habit with a little more caution toward your health (or that of your kids and grandkids.
So what results are you, the consumer or a journalist doing research, going to get when a desire suddenly seizes you to learn more? Unless you are willing to dig deep – you would never discover that despite their “plant based” bottle PR campaigns that the resulting bottles which both Pepsi and Coke are hyping as being eco-friendly are STILL chemically the same, absolutely identical to the polyethylene terepthalate, or PET, and high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, that regular plastic bottles are made of: these carry the same negative human health and environmental impacts as plastic made from fossil fuels. And yet the messaging makes those of you drinking the 14 (yes, fourteen different) billion (USD) brands from Pepsi or the 108 (yes, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT!) beverage brands from Coca-Cola with all those plastic bottles going into the environment, all those trillions of empty calories being consumed, all the resources used and subsequent negative impact on the planet – in particular water use feel a bit righteous in your consumer choice – my darlings you have absolutely no reason to!
“Drinking” water in Ghana
I am not anti-Capitalism, but I have never, ethically, been able to use my skills and passion to promote an employer or a client whose business I did not fully respect (ie, prostitute myself for a paycheck). I recently had a conversation with the CEO and founder of a technology firm whose platform is designed to help (genuinely) lift the bottom 3 billion of humankind out of poverty – the same number who also do not have access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation, the identical target market for doubling Coca-Cola’s business by 2020 for whom it will actually be cheaper to drink a cola beverage than to drink clean water! It’s fine to make money, it’s fine to make money in emerging markets, it’s a noble and wonderful thing to give a hand-up (rather than a hand-out), but in my mind’s eye it’s NOT FINE to sugar-coat actual objectives to make them more palatable to your consuming public and distort reality. If Coca-Cola and Pepsi and the rest of their beverage industry brethren REALLY WANT to help empower women then I suggest taking 8% of their annual profits and fund opportunities for education previously unknown to all but a few of the bottom 3 billion of our neighbours or the various efforts to provide clean water around the world, their philanthropic and CSR departments can one stop shop for worthy projects at Charity Water, Water or in this blog post from Huffington .
Corporate Social Responsibility and the companion sustainability protocols are not ’cause related marketing’ (which is what Coca-Cola’s #5X20 actually is), what CSR ‘should be’ truly is the heart and soul, conscience and character of doing the right thing within a corporate environment.
If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you!