Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Coca Cola the Corporation vs. Coca Cola the Individuals

There's a difference.

Just over a week ago I had a meeting with David Moran. He's Coca Cola Canada's Director of Public Relations.

He had emailed me and asked me if I'd be willing to sit and chat with him. My initial thought was, "not a chance", but I mulled it over a bit and decided that my curiosity as to what he wanted to chat about, superseded my reluctance to sit and chat with the food industry.

All told, it was just a chat. He was curious to pick my brain about some of my concerns regarding food industry partnerships and I was able to vent about Coca Cola specifically.

I enjoyed our chat. Dave seemed genuinely interested in trying to improve Coca Cola's approach to many of the issues I've blogged about, let me know that some of my blogging had in fact had an impact on how Coca Cola does things, and I honestly believe that while at the end of the day his job is in large part to try to help improve the image of a company selling carbonated sugar, that he's a mensch. But none of that is the reason I'm blogging about our meeting.

I'm blogging about it because of what happened at the end.

He asked me, in a very straight forward manner, could I think of any circumstance where I'd be ok with a health organization partnering up with the food industry.

I answered, "No", but what was surprising to me was how difficult that was. It was difficult because Dave is a truly nice guy who I believe is honestly concerned about doing the rightest thing he can in a company that makes much of its profit off the sales of sugar water. It was difficult because suddenly Coca Cola wasn't this big, faceless, to me at times deceitful and unethical multi-national corporation, it was a nice caring man named Dave.

That worries me.

Not because I think I'm going to change my mind about things like yesterday's blog post detailing what I see as Coca Cola's figurative nose thumbing at their own "pledge" not to advertise to children, I'm far too jaded (I think) to be swayed, but it sure hammered home how tough it must be for politicians, when faced with kind, well spoken, seemingly well intentioned folks, to still push agendas that those kind folks say won't help (like the Children's Advertising Initiative).

And it's not that Dave's being disingenuous. It's just that Dave's a person, and Coca Cola is a corporation, and while Dave can have all the ethics in the world, at the end of the day by their very definition, corporations can't. It doesn't mean they can't do good things, just that they can only be done when those good deeds, products and programs coincide with profit.

I like Dave.

I'm still not fond of the Coca Cola Company.