Buy a Soft Drink, Save a Polar Bear
‘Corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) is the broad term used when companies institute policies and processes that have a positive impact on people (consumers and employees), communities, and the environment. Savvy firms realize that this is not only good for the world, but good PR as well. Thus, most ‘Fortune 500’ companies engage in some sort of philanthropy (donating money or resources to charitable causes) or business-process CSR (implementing ‘sustainable’ manufacturing methods, engaging in ‘fair trade’, partnering with environmental agencies to help ‘save the planet’, etc.) to some extent. ‘Big business’ has realized that they have to change the way they do things if they (not to mention the rest of us) want to survive (and save ‘Mother Earth’), and that they have to be both public and proactive in doing so.
So it’s no surprise that the world’s biggest soft drink company (one that has used polar bears extensively in its marketing initiatives) has joined forces with the world’s largest conservation organization (that lists the polar bear as one of its ‘priority species’) to raise funds to help protect the Arctic habitat of these magnificent animals. It’s a noble – not to mention a ‘feel good’ – cause and I applaud them for it. However, I’m having a little difficulty with the ‘fine print’.
The ‘campaign’ is two-fold:
- the company plans to donate $2 million* over 5 years to help ‘protect the polar bear and its habitat’;
- until mid-March they will also
- donate 5% of the proceeds from the sale of every ‘specially marked 12 pack’ of their (main) product to the agency (‘up to a maximum of $235,000*’), and
- match direct donations made to the agency until March 15, 2013 (‘to a maximum of $1 million*’)
NOTE: this is not the first time this company has engaged in this type of CSR, nor is it the only way they conduct business ‘responsibly’; however, this is the only campaign I’m going to address here. (*U.S. dollars)
Sounds impressive, right? Well, let’s look at a few more numbers:
- Total revenue for the firm in 2012 was almost $50 billion dollars
- Net income (i.e., after expenses) was around $8.5 billion
- Sales were up 3% worldwide
- In 2011, the company’s CEO received a base salary of $1.35 million, stock options of $13.1 million, and a ‘performance-based cash bonus’ of $6 million (for a total of just over $20 million). Oh, and he also got other ‘perks and compensation’ – including the use of a company jet and contributions to his retirement savings plan – of just over $750,000
So, if we take the $2 million they have pledged over 5 years, assume all those ‘specially marked’ cases of product sell (to reach the $235,000 maximum), and hope that enough people donate directly to the agency that they reach their $1 million ‘maximum’, the company will give approximately .0013% of their total revenue (or .0076% of their net income, or – even better – about 3% of what they paid their CEO) for the same period. If we just look at the ‘net income’ amount, this would be the same as an average Canadian (who earns about $32,000 after taxes) donating $12.00 over a 5 year period (or giving roughly the cost of one medium soft drink each year). (As a matter of interest, Canadians actually give [on average] $446 per year to various charitable causes.)
Now, I’m not saying that what this company is doing is wrong – in fact, just the opposite. The campaign (which includes online, print and TV coverage – I wonder what THAT cost?) is bringing much-needed attention to the plight of the polar bear and the rapidly melting Arctic ice shield where they live. It just seems to me that if they REALLY wanted to help – REALLY wanted to make a difference – they’d REALLY ‘put their money where their mouth is’ (not only by giving more generously, but perhaps by ‘shifting’ some of what they spent on advertising into actual dollars donated).
Still, the cause IS worthwhile so – if you haven’t already done so – go out and buy a soft drink and save a polar bear (or go online and make a donation). If we don’t all do SOMETHING, the last generation to see polar bears in the wild will be those of us on … the other side of 55.