Tag Archives: Corporate social responsibility

How About A Bowl Of Sugar?

Foodie Friday, and this week I’m revved up about a food issue which also raises an issue with every business. You are probably aware that there is an epidemic of diabetes in this country. According to the Centers For Disease Control, 1 in 3 adults in this country has pre-diabetes (elevated blood sugar) and over 9% actually have the disease. This incidence is much higher here in the South with some states having well over 11% of the population affected. Having spent a few years here I can tell you that there is a lot of sweet tea and other sugar-added foods sold everywhere.

What’s got me off on this rant today is what I would call yet another nail in the coffin of those who will contract the disease. Apparently, some genius at Post Cereals felt it would be a good idea to make a cereal named after Sour Patch Kids, a candy. I guess we can commend them for dropping all pretense for most breakfast cereals being anything other than candy and just calling it what it is. You think I’m hyperbolizing? You can literally pour a bowl of some breakfast cereals and half of what you pour is pure sugar. Golden Crips cereal (called Sugar Crisp when I was a kid) is almost 52% sugar. Honey Smacks (formerly Sugar Smacks) is over 55%. You would be better off feeding your kid a Snickers bar – it’s only 45% sugar.

There is a greater question here for anyone in business. Post isn’t the only company doing this. General Mills sells cereal with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on the front. I refuse to believe that the folks at Post or General Mills don’t have an understanding that what they’re selling is fostering an epidemic. It’s easy for them to shrug their shoulders and say “well, responsible parents will let their kids eat this only in moderation.” So why change the names of the aforementioned cereals to delete “sugar? Why isn’t the nutritional information for Reese’s Puffs on the General Mills website? These are dangerous products, folks, and they raise the greater business question. Should we make products that we know are doing great harm? Just because we can do something, should we? Isn’t it possible to sell the healthier alternatives you already make to kids and stop pushing something that you know puts these kids on the road to diabetes?

It doesn’t have to be that way. When scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer and attributed it to the use of CFC’s, many companies that used CFC’s as the propellant in their spray products changed to something else. The products are less dangerous and the hole is healing. Having a conscience to go along with having a bottom line isn’t inconsistent nor bad business. It’s quite the opposite. Selling kids bowls of sugar under the guise of “making your day better” really is a sad way to make a buck, don’t you think?

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Filed under food, Huh?, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Food And Doing Well By Doing Good

This Foodie Friday I want to chat about a couple of food-related things I read this week and how they might translate into some thinking about your business. The first is an article (seen here) about how Nestle has figured out a way to cut the sugar in its candy. The second is something businesses are doing in Japan to help with a problem on their roads.

Nestle Crunch in most recent packaging

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nestle says its researchers have found a way to structure sugar differently so that it uses 40% less. It claims this can be done without affecting the taste. As a former fatty who misses chocolate A LOT, this is good news. More importantly, it helps to address the epidemics of diabetes and obesity. Nestle is patenting the method which seems like a missed opportunity to open source something that can help a lot of people. Of course, once you file a patent the method is no longer secret so maybe others will find a way to do the same.

In Japan, as in many other countries including our own, the population is aging and the old folks are continuing to drive. My 91-year-old Dad refuses to give up the car keys and it’s something that keeps our whole family up at night. What they’re doing in Japan is to offer the super seniors discounts. In fact, nearly 12,000 seniors living in Aichi had voluntarily given up their licenses in exchange for discounted goods and services, and that was before one of the leading ramen chains (hence the food focus!) offered a discount for life to those who hand over their licenses. Since the proportion of all fatal accidents attributed to drivers over 75 has spiked from 7.4 percent to 12.8 percent, this seems like a pretty good public service.

In both of these cases, the motivation may not have been to do well by doing something good but I think that’s the effect. Who wouldn’t want to eat less sugar and not down a bunch of artificial sweeteners which are just as bad? Nestle ought to sell more candy. In Japan, safer roads help everyone, and the businesses providing the discounts can’t serve younger customers who’ve been hurt by an older driver, not to mention the older drivers themselves. Hopefully, the additional patronage more than makes up for the discount.

This is the sort of thing any business can think about. How can we do some good in our community and does that activity hold the promise of helping the business? As anyone involved in Corporate Socal Responsibility will tell you, the two things are not exclusive to one another, and I’m all for it. You?

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Filed under food, What's Going On

Ends And Means

The cynics among you believe that as a brand or as a company behavior matters far less than a low price and a quality product. If you provide a great service or a good product and price it as low as possible, consumers will buy. It doesn’t matter if you pollute the air or pay lousy wages. Consumers just want to know what’s in it for them. The good news, from my perspective, is that you are wrong. Here is the evidence to back it up.

The Havas folks did a study to understand how corporate social responsibility has evolved over the past decade. They looked at how are companies responding to consumer pressures to work toward the common good and what those consumers now expect from their brand partners. Most importantly, the studied how critical these expectations are to their purchase decisions.

As it turns out, consumers are extremely interested in this. Half of mainstream consumers and two-thirds of Prosumers (a term coined by futurist Alvin Toffler – a consumer who produces and consumes media – and who doesn’t?) avoid buying from businesses deemed to have a negative social or environmental impact. As the study states: “People still want bargains, of course, but it’s even more essential that products and services offer some sort of enduring value.”

Some other points from the study:

  • When we asked respondents how important it is for a company’s CEO to do certain things, paying workers a fair wage and providing a pleasant work environment received higher scores than earning profits or even being environmentally conscious.
  • People aren’t looking for businesses to act as quasi-governments. On the contrary, around two-thirds of our global sample actually fear the power big corporations already wield. What they want to see are all the world’s players—governments, corporations, NGOs, citizens—working together to tackle problems that no single entity can solve alone.
  • Two-thirds of our global sample agreed that businesses actually bear as much responsibility as governments for driving positive social change, and 62 percent said they’d like their favorite brands to play a bigger role in solving social problems.

The point is that if you believe that your brand or company can let the ends – revenues and profits – justify any means, you’re sadly mistaken.  The study shows that companies that do good are more likely to do well.  Isn’t that the end we’re all after?

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