Monday, July 18, 2011

Campbell's soup resalting belies true corporate responsiblity - profit.

To be fair, and to be clear, at the end of the day, nothing can matter more to corporations than profit, as without profit, there'd be no corporations.

Oh sure, corporations need to ensure they sell safe products, and they need to treat their employees fairly and such, but as far as "corporate social responsibility" goes, there's really no such thing.

That's not to say there can't be corporations who provide incredible contributions to worthy causes, it's just to say that it's their choice to do so, and not their "responsibility", and that at the end of the day, their responsibility, especially when discussing publicly traded companies, is for profit. Simply and fairly put, if a corporation's socially responsible moves impact negatively on their bottom line, you can rest assured, they'll move to eliminate them.

Campbell's recent soup re-salting is a perfect example.

The Campbell Soup Company's original de-salting was a move trumpeted both by Campbell and by many public health organizations, as a shining example of so-called corporate social responsibility.

The Campbell Company milked it for all it was worth, producing at least two television spots congratulating themselves (email subscribers, videos are on the blog). The first involved Hilton, a Campbell employee who, "questioned all the salt". They then filmed Hilton standing in a room where the salt the Campbell Company had removed reached his waist. The second involved Michael, another Campbell employee, who admitted that he didn't feel comfortable feeding Campbell soups to his children, "he didn't always feel right serving them at home". They then filmed him eating with his family with the then sodium reduced soup he could presumably feel good about.

Public health organizations and health care professionals bought into it hook, line and sinker.

Blood Pressure Canada even awarded Campbell's a "Certificate of Excellence" to commend Campbell for "the company’s continuing sodium reduction efforts and industry leadership".

Their fawning over Campbell's was certainly understandable given the powerful statements the corporation kept making. For example, Philip Donne, President of Campbell Company of Canada, in a press release from just one short year ago, referencing last year's Sodium Working Group call to reduce sodium consumption, stated that he believed the call to action was an urgent one, "We are pleased to see that many of our peer food companies are joining us in efforts to advance their sodium reduction programs. And for those who don't sense the urgency, the Sodium Working Group's recommendations may be just the motivation they need".

Or how about that of Andrea Dunn's, the Campbell Company's so-called, "Nutrition Strategy Manager" who in that same year old press release explained, "Campbell Canada's approach of gradual and consistent sodium reduction is helping to adjust our consumers' palates to the taste of healthier sodium levels".

So what do you think the Campbell Soup Company will tell Hilton and Michael now that the sales of their less salty broths faltered, and in response out came their corporate shakers? Will Blood Pressure Canada rescind their award, and will Campbell's stop bragging about it? Will Andrea Dunn quit in protest, and will Philip Donne, who when awarded Blood Pressure Canada's award stated, "We know there is still more work to be done and we are hopeful our leadership will inspire industry changes", ponder on his leadership inspiring industry change for increased sodium?

Not a chance.

And what of the public who were led to believe that health steadied the hands of Campbell's?

At the end of the day people need to remember that corporations don't do things out of the goodness off their hearts, they do them out of the goodness of their balance sheets. Sure, if corporations can make money and do good, they will, and good for them, but please don't ever kid yourself about true corporate responsibilities, as by definition they boil right down to plain old dollars and cents.