Ethical Performance
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Fizzy drink manufacturers using CSR to establish ‘innocence by association’

August 2012

Fizzy drink manufacturers are employing elaborate, expensive, multinational CSR campaigns to ‘mislead’ and mask the contribution they are making to the global obesity crisis, according to the Public Library of Science (PLoS).
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are acknowledged to contribute to rising obesity rates and exacerbate preventable chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 
While childhood obesity has been identified as a serious public health challenge, US children find 13% of their intake of calories from SSBs.
In one example highlighted by the PLoS report, instead of advertising its products during 2010’s Super Bowl, Pepsi used the money to fund the Pepsi Refresh Project, a social media cause marketing campaign, to seek votes on how $20m (£13m,€16m) should be shared among a variety of community-based projects. 
Coca Cola, the PLoS said, promotes its philanthropic and sustainability activities with a CSR campaign, Live Positively, offering consumers healthy lifestyle advice. 
According to the PLoS report authors, the industry is using CSR to achieve “innocence by association” by aligning themselves with good causes. 
They said: “CSR initiatives are often introduced when corporations fear a threat to their profitability. CSR can boost a firm’s bottom line, both directly through sales and indirectly by moderating the risk for regulation and improving the overall business climate.
“These campaigns echo the tobacco industry’s use of CSR as a means to focus responsibility on consumers rather than on the corporation, bolster the companies’ and their products’ popularity, and to prevent regulation.”
However, both companies have publicly committed to stop selling sugary drinks in schools, with Pepsi going the further by announcing in 2010 that it aims to remove full-calorie, sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by the end of this year.

Public Library of Science | North America |

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