Category: Pink Washing


“Public scrutiny of business is constant and intense, and in the past decade, disillusionment has grown over excesses in executive pay, questionable accounting practices, drug recalls, and moral laxity on the part of corporations.” — Paul A. Argenti, Professor of Management and Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Should communication students be encouraged to work for publicly traded companies either from inside the corporation or providing external advice as a hired gun at public relations or advertising agency?

Or should these very same students be galvanized against the excesses of capitalism, demonstrating against Wall Street under the banner of social justice?

floodwallstreet

Are these questions mutually exclusive? Are you either for or against capitalism or for or against social justice?

These questions are magnified and intensified against the backdrop of underachieving employment, wage and real estate markets, while the NYSE and NASDAQ remain persistently bullish.

It appears this persistent economic scenario quite possibly will greet graduating students at least for the next academic year or two.

Examples of Corporate Excess

Finding examples of corporate excess is relatively easy.

Almost DailyBrett has joined the scads of other bloggers that take issue with seemingly brain-dead or just plain greedy antics by the leadership of large-cap publicly traded companies:

  • The author’s former company, LSI Logic, provided a seven-or-eight figure Golden Parachute to former CEO Abhi Talwalkar as he drove the 33-year-old specialty semiconductor designer into the abyss.
  • Spirit Airlines famously stiffed a decorated 76-year old, dying of cancer Marine veteran asking for a mere $197 refund, telling him literally to pound sand because he didn’t buy trip insurance. The carrier generously offered a partial credit, if he succumbed to the Grim Reaper before his flight.
  • October is right around the corner and that means (drum roll) even more corporate efforts to tie marketing bonanzas to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both 5-hour ENERGY and “Buckets for the Cure” KFC have become global leaders when it comes to “Pink Washing.”
  • Largest corporate bankruptcy-ever, Enron, is the poster-child when it comes to corporate greed and wrongdoing. And yet there were innocent people who were just trying to do their job, including telling the corporate story, until they realized they too were being misled.

Considering these examples and literally hundreds more, it is easy to give a broad-sweeping thumbs-down to multi-national corporations. At the same time, it should be remembered that these companies make the products and provide the services that we use on a daily basis (e.g., Apple = Macs, iPads, iPhones, iPods). They hire and provide benefits to literally tens of thousands (e.g., Boeing, 168,400; Starbucks, 160,000; Amazon, 88,400; Nordstrom, 58,140), Microsoft, 55,455). They provide wealth-accumulation prospects for the 54 percent of Americans who buy stocks, mutual funds and bonds (e.g., America’s investor class), including 73 percent of college graduates, and 83 percent of post-graduates.

Profit Motive

One of the major beefs espoused by the Occupy Wall Street movement three years ago, and the Flood Wall Street demonstrators earlier this month, is that publicly traded companies are focused on profits. These statements are accurate, but it should also be pointed out that companies have a legal (e.g., Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA 1974) and moral (e.g., Fiduciary) obligation to produce the best bottom-line return possible for shareholders. Failure to do so invites almost certain civil and possible criminal litigation against the companies and potential dismissal of C-level executives.

floodwallstreet1

As a master’s degree candidate four years ago at the University of Oregon, the author of Almost DailyBrett noted the unrestrained celebration of competitive advantage and buy low/sell high mantra at the business school, and the unrestrained embrace of social justice including redistribution of income at the journalism school.

It seemed that one would build a statue of Adam Smith, while the other would throw flowers at the feet of Che Guevara. One would urge students to work and advise corporate America and the other would implore becoming an activist, marching, demonstrating and hopefully not being arrested.

Which is the better option for graduating students in making corporate America, particularly fallible publicly traded companies, more responsive to communities, the environment and let’s not forget, its own employees?

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility or CSR should not be seen as an oxymoron. The concept of doing good (CSR) should not be viewed as contradictory to doing well (fiduciary responsibility). Graduates of communications, journalism and business schools can and should emphasize the value of doing BOTH to improve the bottom line for investors, including employees, while doing good deeds for communities, the planet and the rank-and-file employees.

Certainly the likes of Occupy Wall Street, which never found a unifying message, and Flood Wall Street, which tied capitalism to climate change, have their First Amendment Rights to (preferably) peacefully demonstrate. These NGOs need trained communicators and message developers.

Conversely, graduates could also choose to work internally to make companies better. They can stand for both fiduciary and corporate social responsibility. They can advocate against excessive C-level compensation. They can take stands against Pink Washing and Green Washing. They can ensure that the public is provided with good products at fair prices and everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

And heaven forbid, if another Enron is in the offing, they can courageouly tell the uncomfortable truth using their communication skills.

Is it better to be inside the corporation under the banner of capitalism or out in the streets (or in tents) calling for social justice?

There is more than one way to make corporate America better for everyone.

http://exec.tuck.dartmouth.edu/about-us/faculty/paul-argenti

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/22/flood-wall-street-arrests_n_5865468.html

http://nypost.com/2014/09/22/climate-change-protesters-flood-wall-street/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/farewell-lsi-logic/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/lessons-from-the-spirit-airlines-pr-debacle/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/evil-spirit-airlines/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/5-hour-pink-washing/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/shameless-5-hour-energy/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/buckets-for-the-cure/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-enrons-pr-chief/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/adam-smith-vs-che%e2%80%99-guevera/

 

 

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“There you go again.” – Ronald Reagan debating Jimmy Carter in 1980

Wonder why more than a few consider “corporate social responsibility” to be an oxymoron?

Can corporations, especially publicly traded companies, serve both masters: fiduciary responsibility (do well) and CSR (do good)? It can be done, but the effort has to be sincere and meaningful.

Sorry 5-hour ENERGY®. There you go again.

5-hourvets

First, Living Essentials (parent of 5-hour ENERGY) mounted a mucho grande marketing campaign with special pink raspberry bottles in order to make an un poquito contribution to Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC). The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) campaign even came with a plethora of television ads and a specially decaled NASCAR racer being driven by Clint Bowyer

Now, it is time for yet another mucho grande marketing campaign with special red-white-blue bottles in order make another un poquito contribution, this one to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). Do you think that 5-hour ENERGY just commissioned another specially marked Bowyer stock car for the occasion?

Does a bear relieve itself in the woods?

In addition, the company even sponsored a 400-mile NASCAR race in Kansas just in case you missed any of 5-hour ENERGY’s ads.

Even in-your-face syndicated radio sports jock Jim Rome got into the act, pimping for these $2.99 (today’s retail price) red-white-blue bottles of 5-hour SPEED.

And how much will be raised for the wounded vets? (Drum roll) Not less than $75,000.

Wasn’t the $75,000 minimum the same figure for when 5-hour ENERGY contributed a nickel from the sale of each $2.99 pink bottle (less than 2 percent of retail) to the breast cancer foundation?

Why is Almost DailyBrett underwhelmed?

Real Corporate Social Responsibility

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” – Harry Truman

SBUXCI
Contrast the shameless 5-hour ENERGY CSR-in-disguise campaign with the synergistic relationship between Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) and Conservation International (CI) on behalf of the environment and the farmers in the Chiapas region of Mexico. This is the same case that was examined in-depth by Harvard Business Review. 

The relationship between the for-profit Starbucks and the NGO Conservation International took time to develop. Starbucks wanted to help, but it insisted on not compromising the quality of its mild Arabica coffee beans for its discerning customer base. In the end the two disparate entities teamed in setting standards for Starbucks’ coffee supply chain in the Chiapas including the planting of shade trees and no coffee pulp being thrown into the rivers.

Just imagine, Starbucks and its NGO partner, Conservation International, accomplished impressive deeds together without the need for specially marked cups or a spiffy race car.

This same is true for Ronald McDonald House Charities, including the 338 Ronald McDonald houses around the world, a direct offshoot of the fortune made by McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Ditto of the Home Depot Foundation and its $1.5 million partnership with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for veterans.

Let’s not forget Nike founder Phil Knight’s $100 million contribution for the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and another $125 million for the OHSU Cardiovascular Institute. There were also some celebrated “Uncle Phil” contributions to the University of Oregon and Stanford University.

And of course we need to salute the efforts of another billionaire, Bill Gates and his spouse Melinda, establishing the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The foundation’s $38.3 billion endowment targets promoting health care and reducing extreme poverty around the world.

“Pink Washing” Close Call

kfc

Before 5-hour ENERGY got into the Think Pink act, YUM Brands’ KFC Division launched a controversial “Buckets for the Cure” campaign benefitting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.to combat breast cancer. A portion of the sale of each specially marked bucket of grilled chicken was devoted to the work of the Komen foundation.

Some have called this effort true CSR. Others have labeled it, Pink Washing. Whichever way one comes down on the “tastes great” vs. “less filling” divide, there is no question that KFC raised a reported $4.2 million to combat and find a cure for breast cancer.

There are many, who simply do not like KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) and will not see anything positive undertaken by the company. Having said that, there is a legitimate debate whether “Buckets for the Cure” was a crafty marketing campaign, a well-intentioned CSR thrust or a combination of the two. Let the Fiduciary Responsibility vs. Corporate Social Responsibility debate commence!

5-hourspecial

When it comes to 5-hour ENERGY and its guarantee of $75,000 to the wounded vets, compared to its massive marketing campaign, NASCAR race and race car, one has to make the call:

5-hour ENERGY once again stands guilty of disguising its massive for-profit marketing campaign as an attempt to help (fill-in-the-blank).

There you go again.

http://www.5hourenergy.com/5hrNews-2014-04-14.asp

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/5-hour-pink-washing/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/lattes-cappuccinos-mochas-and-csr/

http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6413&facInfo=pub

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/harrystru109615.html

http://www.rmhc.org/what-we-do

http://www.homedepotfoundation.org/page/our-partners/habitat-for-humanity-international

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/buckets-for-the-cure/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%26_Melinda_Gates_Foundation

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

http://www.nascar.com/en_us/race-center/sprint-cup-series/5-hour-energy-400.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5-hour Pink Washing?

KFC’s controversial “Buckets for the Cure” campaign has competition, when it comes to being pink … and green.

Enter Living Essentials’ 5-hour ENERGY®’s special raspberry flavor with five cents of every $2.16 bottle (the cost if you buy a 12-pack online) being directed to Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC).

5hourraspberry

To demonstrate its sincerity to the cause of beating breast cancer, 5-hour ENERGY issued a news release with the first quote coming from its Communications Director Melissa Skabich: “Our company has a strong history of supporting causes that fight breast cancer.”

The second quote came from her counterpart at LBBC.

“The financial contribution and the comprehensive media campaign by the makers of 5-hour ENERGY® products will help us to reach many people who are currently unaware of the programs and services that LBBC offers to those facing a breast cancer diagnosis,” said Kevin Gianotto, LBBC’s Associate Director, Marketing and Corporate Relations.

Thank God the 5-hour ENERGY’s registered trademark made it into the non-profit spokesman’s quote about the company’s  “comprehensive media campaign.”

If this is such a noble cause, how about quotes from the principals (e.g., CEOs) at both 5-hour ENERGY and LBBC? Or does their absence suggest that just maybe the heads of these respective organizations are a tad sheepish about this marketing exercise?

If you don’t believe Melissa about her company’s dedication to the pink cause, check out the specially branded 5-hour ENERGY race car driven on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit by Clint Bowyer.

5hourracecar

And if you still need further proof, just turn on your HDTV and it won’t be long before you see yet another 5-hour ENERGY ad for its special raspberry flavor, available thru December 31, with five cents of every bottle being directed to LBBC.

Let’s do the math.

You can buy 2,000 bottles at $2.16 each ($4,320) of raspberry 5-hour ENERGY and $100 will be donated to LBBC…

…or you could write a $100 check to “Living Beyond Breast Cancer.”

Hmmm…that means you could do just as much good in the fight against breast cancer, simply writing a $100 check and keeping $4,220 in your own pocket.

As I write this particular Almost DailyBrett post, I do not want my prose to come across as yet another example of the old adage: No good deed goes unpunished.

Personally, I am a cancer survivor and my first wife died of stomach cancer. This is matter of deep concern to me. I want to beat all forms of cancer.

Last year, Living Essentials’ contributed $387,000 to fighting breast cancer and the company has pledged at least $75,000 this year. That’s real money. This is a vital cause. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a fact that certainly is not lost on the folks at 5-hour ENERGY.

The brass at 5-hour ENERGY has a fiduciary responsibility to its investors to do well in terms of the top line and the bottom line. The same management team should also do good by practicing corporate social responsibility (CSR), giving back to communities where it does business.

Fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility are not mutually exclusive terms. But what happens when the first (fiduciary responsibility) is disguised as the second (CSR)?

Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) owns and operates KFC. Yum! Brands generated its own Pink Washing controversy when it introduced grilled chicken, pink “Buckets for the Cure” with a portion of the proceeds being directed to the equally controversial Susan G. Komen Foundation.

kfc

Was the marketing campaign for the pink buckets of grilled chicken a fiduciary exercise or a corporate social responsibility (CSR) endeavor or both?  KFC reportedly delivered 50 cents for each bucket sold and raised $4.2 million.

The Oregon Ducks wore pink helmets for their October 19 football game against Washington State. After the game, the team auctioned off 25 of these helmets, raising $200,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

What is 5-hour ENERGY promising? Wow, $75,000.

Am I suggesting that companies can’t emphasize CSR, while keeping an eye on the bottom line? Absolutely not. McDonald’s is offering healthier food choices. Toyota unveiled the hybrid, energy-efficient Prius. Home Depot has given building materials to Habitat for Humanity.

About half of our public relations students at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) were comfortable with Yum! Brands’ “Buckets for the Cure” campaign, while the other half believed KFC was engaging in Pink Washing.

Almost DailyBrett contends that Living Essentials’ 5-hour ENERGY should have learned something from the Yum! Brands experience, and should have exercised greater caution.

Pledging a minimum of $75,000 is ridiculously low (basically a company rounding error), and less than seven figures is not sufficient when you consider the intense over-the-top marketing.

nickel

And speaking about swinging for the fences, the specially decaled 5-hour ENERGY® NASCAR racer fits the classic definition of in-your-face, and is clearly superfluous.

And at a minimum 5-hour ENERGY public relations types, ask your CEO and the chief executive of Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) to lend their names to the cause.

That way, 5-hour ENERGY would have a better chance of passing the giggle test, and deflecting the inevitable pink washing charges and allegations.

Can you spare a nickel?

http://www.naturalnews.com/037645_avon_breast_cancer_pinkwashing.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5-hour_Energy

http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/?page_id=13

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinkwashing

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/72RO/5-hour-energy-raspberry-good-deeds

http://www.5hourenergy.com/5hrNews-2013-09-09.asp

http://www.shop5hourenergy.com/detail/5HR+RASPBERRY+12

http://www.lbbc.org/

http://www.naturalnews.com/028670_Komen_for_the_Cure_fraud.html

http://ww5.komen.org/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/buckets-for-the-cure/

http://www.oregonlive.com/ducks/index.ssf/2013/10/oregon_football_ducks_pink_hel.html

“Buckets for the Cure”

It never fails to stir up emotions, particularly in October (e.g., National Breast Cancer Awareness Month).

It is represented by a simple image, illustrating a pretty-in-pink bucket of grilled chicken.

It describes a marketing campaign that raised 50 cents per bucket and ultimately delivered $4.2 million to date to fight breast cancer.

And yet blood pressure always seems to rise and passions start flowing. Is this a case of no good-deed going unpunished, or something much deeper?

One person’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is another person’s “Pinkwashing.”

kfc

In one corner is for profit Yum Brand’s KFC Division (once known as “Kentucky Fried Chicken”) on the other is non-profit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Or maybe they are not in separate corners, but instead joined at the hip?

For present-and-future PR practitioners, I have seen this debate played out several times in the last two-plus years, and there is nothing even remotely approaching consensus on this ethical issue.

Reportedly, Susan G. Komen is the largest non-profit source for breast cancer research and advocacy. Susan G. Komen touts 240 corporate donors, and KFC is just one of these donors. And yet the knives are out for KFC primarily, and also for Susan G. Komen for signing off on KFC’s marketing campaign in order to raise millions to fight breast cancer.

To some encouraging patrons to consume grilled chicken breasts to save female breasts is too much of a mental metaphor to process. Fatty chicken contributes to breast cancer, so doesn’t the KFC/Komen alliance constitute shameless hypocrisy? That question has been asked repeatedly.

As a consuming public, we have been demanding that “Big Food” take action to notify us of the calorie count in its fast-food offerings and to offer healthier choices. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”

As Almost DailyBrett reported, publicly traded companies (e.g., $13.5 billion NYSE: YUM) have a fiduciary obligation to promote profitability for their shareholders, many of whom are future retirees or parents with kids approaching college, investing in mutual funds and individual stocks.

At the same time, we are asking these corporations to give back to the communities they serve and take action to protect the environment through Corporate Social Responsibility. Yum Brands would naturally contend that its grilled chicken is a healthier consumer choice, and that it has raised more than $4 million to fight breast cancer. Isn’t this a case of both fiduciary responsibility and CSR? Would it be better for KFC to just offer original recipe or extra crispy to go along with the fat-laden side dishes and not give a dime to Susan G. Komen or any other non-profit?

When it comes to vilification, Susan G. Komen has been the subject of rhetorical broadsides even though it has invested nearly $2 billion for breast cancer research, education and advocacy. The largest single donation? $4.2 million from…KFC. At times, Komen has demonstrated a PR tin ear (gun-toting Smith & Wesson donation; Planned Parenthood debacle), but overall the foundation has been one of the leaders of the charge against breast cancer.

Shouldn’t we be celebrating corporate entities practicing CSR and helping non-profits? Or do some of us detest corporations so deeply and by extension, capitalism, that they would prefer for corporations to not offer and promote healthier choices, and give nothing back to our communities?

From this humble perspective, we instinctively know that life is not perfect and certainly not fair. Having said that, shouldn’t we be encouraging all to do good things, regardless of how large or how small (e.g., “Random acts of kindness”)? Isn’t the key to move the dial from an ethical and societal standpoint upwards and to the right? Shouldn’t we all have good intentions?

Or was mumsy right, when she reminded me: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

http://blogs.courier-journal.com/derbycitycents/2012/10/07/yum-brands-david-novak-on-buckets-for-the-cure-criticism/

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/kfc-fights-breast-cancer-fried-chicken/story?id=10458830

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/30/AR2010043001971.html

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=YUM+Profile

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

http://ww5.komen.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_G._Komen_for_the_Cure

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_road_to_hell_is_paved_with_good_intentions

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