Thursday, January 13, 2011

Coca Cola's spins arms length relationships into "corporate social responsibility"

I'm guessing that not to many people have had the chance to read Coca Cola's 2009-2010 corporate social responsibility report.

It's quite the feel good tome and it covers all the wonderful things Coca Cola has done for the world - from improving our health to saving the earth, and while undoubtedly Coca Cola will strive to make a positive impact on the world, it will only do so when and where such efforts are able to translate into more sales. This isn't in my mind evil behaviour, it's just the nature of being a public company - ultimately it's all about shareholder equity - if Coca Cola spends money recklessly on do-good efforts without returns on investments, the shareholders have a case to sue.

So reading through the report I came across the section on Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. According to Coca Cola, by virtue of the 2010 Olympics they,

"engaged stakeholders at all levels, particularly those related to healthy active living and the environment."
Sounds pretty great, no?

So who'd they engage?

Well according to the report among others they "engaged": the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Obesity Network, the Ontario Medical Association, the Alberta Medical Association, the BC Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association.

I was curious what "engaged" meant so I contacted my friends and colleagues at both the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian Obesity Network.

Did they have sit downs with Coca Cola?


Did they advise them about anything health related?


Did they review their corporate social responsibility plans?


So what the heck did they do that landed them as bragging trophies for Coca Cola?

Well apparently they provided the Olympic Torch Relay committee with names of members for consideration of inclusion in the relay.

The same Olympic Torch Relay sponsored by Coca Cola.

That's the "engagement".

Oh, and in case you were wondering why Coca Cola wanted to sponsor the relay/Olympics?