Tag Archive: 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.

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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/

 

 

Quick question: To benefit society is it better to donate $1,000 to the United Way or buy about five shares in Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) for the same amount of money?

Earns Tesla MotorsUnitedWay

Before you answer, please be reminded this question is not about pure, unmitigated, unadulterated altruism of the giver or investor.

Those who contribute to non-profits (e.g., United Way is one of literally thousands) in many cases are doing so to generate a personal tax deduction, which not inconsequentially adds to the federal deficit approaching $18 trillion.

Conversely, those who invest in corporate shares are doing so in hopes that the stock increases in value, something along the lines of buy low, sell high. This action does not sound charitable in the least … but in some cases it may be just that.

To top it off, a successful buy-low, sell high-action triggers a profit and with it tax liability (either capital gains or personal income tax depending on the timing of the transaction). These transactions lead to greater tax revenues for the feds, states, counties and municipalities.

Back to the basic question: Is it for the betterment of society to donate to a non-profit rather than to invest in visionary companies?

The answer may be surprising.

Non-Profit vs. For-Profit

Certainly, the United Way is not the only non-profit doing good on Planet Earth.

And just as certain, Elon Musk’s battery-powered automobile innovator/manufacturer, Tesla, is not the only global company with a spiffy idea or two.

The Alexandria, VA-based United Way with 1,200 local offices with a reported $103.2 million in assets and $94.2 million in net income provides essential support services to the less fortunate nationwide…and that is as Martha would say, “A good thing.”

Keep in mind when these big numbers are being thrown around, some in power may try to dip into the till. That is exactly what happened in the 1990s when United Way CEO William Aramory defrauded the charity according to a 53-count federal indictment to the tune of $1.2 million. He spent six years in the slam.

The United Way appears to have fully recovered from the PR debacle, and has partnered with the National Football League and others to assist those who need help the most.

Many multi-national corporations have earned near universal disdain for excessive CEO compensation, selling sinful products (e.g., NYSE: MO or Philip Morris), practicing “Green-Washing,” “Pink Washing” or “Astroturfing.” No wonder there were protests/reactions from “Occupy Wall Street,” to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and many, many others.

And yet, there are companies that are sincere about maintaining both their fiduciary responsibility for shareholders and employees, and corporate social responsibility for workers, communities, regions and yes, the planet.

Companies on a Mission

“If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.” — Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie in her novel, Mrs. Dymond (1885)

University of Oregon business professor Michael V. Russo wrote Companies on a Mission about more than a handful of enlightened corporations that have demonstrated they can be good citizens, while pursuing a profit as mandated by fiduciary responsibility.

lohas

In writing his book, he said these companies doing good for communities and the planet were drawing interest from at least a portion of the LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) consumer market segment, estimated at 43 million Americans in the economic downturn year of 2009. Conceivably that number has grown as the economy continues its stubbornly slow recovery.

Are we daring to think differently in suggesting that investing in shares and/or buying the products of these forward-looking companies is the equivalent of teaching a man how to catch a fish?

And are we merely giving a man a fish, if we donate in a well-meaning non-profit. That’s exactly what Almost DailyBrett is pondering in writing this epistle.

Please send the slings and arrows my way.

NUMMI Comes Back to Life

In a recent 60 Minutes piece on Musk’s battery car builder, Tesla, and privately held rocket-ship innovator, SpaceX, CBS included footage of the once-shuddered/2010 reopened NUMMI plant in industrial Fremont, California. There are now than 1,000 workers building non-polluting Tesla battery-operated cars at NUMMI.

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Palo Alto-based Tesla employs nearly 6,000 (and this figure does not include in-direct jobs in the form of suppliers, partners, distributors, resellers, butchers, bakers and candle stick makers).

The $2 billion top-line and $456 million bottom-line company has attracted more than $26.7 billion in market capitalization or market value (based on the present stock price).

The key to building more of these vehicles, which do NOT contribute to climate change, are the availability of ion-batteries with acceptable ranges and reasonable price points. Tesla will soon announce the location(s) for its ion-battery “Gigafactory.” We can rest assured the Gigafactory or Gigafactories will directly employ hundreds and indirectly employ thousands more, using the tried-true indirect-to-direct employee ratios.

Bill O’Reilly once called Tesla a “game-changer” as the way we think of automobiles is changing. And naturally, Tesla is attracting competitors into this space (z.B. Bayerische Motoren Werke oder BMW).

Back to the basic premise of this exercise: Are there instances in which the purchase of stock shares in (gasp) a corporation do more for the economy and the planet than making the traditional charitable contribution?

That seems to be the case in at least one instance, if we dare think out of the proverbial box.

Almost DailyBrett Note: The author of this blog owns slightly more than 100 shares of Tesla. Readers considering investing in Tesla would be well advised to review Tesla’s financials, stock performance, analyst reports and maybe even consult a financial advisor. My knowledge of Tesla is based upon published reports, publicly available information/data and of course, the 60 Minutes piece.

http://www.unitedway.org/

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

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

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/only-in-america/

http://www.teslamotors.com/

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

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tesla-and-spacex-elon-musks-industrial-empire/

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/give_a_man_a_fish_and_you_feed_him_for_a_day;_teach_a_man_to_fish_and_you_feed_him_for_a_lifetime

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

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/07/17/tesla-motors-inc-california-is-back-in-the-race-fo.aspx

 

 

 

 

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