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Posts Tagged ‘public health’

Re-Tooling Bottled Water Bans and Healthy Beverage Requirements to Serve Sustainability and Public Health Goals: A Constructive Path Forward

Monday, June 29th, 2015

By Cara Wilking, JD, PHAI Consulting Attorney

Researchers at the University of Vermont in Burlington (UVM) published a paper describing the impact of a campus bottled water ban that was paired with a healthy beverage requirement. The study found that removing bottled water from campus had no impact on the number of plastic bottles shipped to the campus, and resulted in higher consumption of unhealthy beverages. These results do not support the sustainability or public health goals of the bottled water ban: it failed to reduce plastic trash and carbon emissions or improve the nutrition profile of beverages consumed by students, faculty and staff on the UVM campus.

The study puts a fine point on a very practical tension that exists between two highly organized movements: the obesity and oral health prevention movements with a primary focus on shifting the public from caloric beverages to non-caloric beverages like water–for the most part regardless of how they are packaged; and a segment of the sustainability movement that has honed in on bottled water as a unique source of plastic trash, carbon emissions from its transportation, and a burden on communities from where it is extracted for packaging. The public health community regards bottled water as a healthy alternative to other drinks when consumers are choosing a beverage to buy, and the environmental community considers bottled water to be a needless source of pollution. The UVM study findings call out for solutions that meet the goals of both groups, and that combine their forces for a greater collective impact.

A constructive path forward is for both movements to work together to reduce access points for all packaged beverages. A key to the bottled beverage industry’s success has been to insert itself into every aspect of daily life. Vending machines are found in parks, schools, college campuses, recreation centers, etc. And coolers selling bottled beverages are placed at the end-caps of retail check-out lines, and fill the walls of convenience stores all over the country—including in places like college campuses. These access points haven’t always been there. They’ve been inserted via private contracts over time—these are contracts that are not required to be renewed and can be radically altered to support the environment and the public health.

A strategic focus on reducing total access points for packaged beverages benefits the environment through:

And benefits the public health through:

A focus on a total reduction of packaged beverages is timely because demand for sugary drinks is on the decline. This new path will require both movements to expand their thinking on their respective issues and entails political risks on both sides. The obesity prevention movement will have to move beyond efforts to change the product mix in existing vending machines and other retail sales outlets and embrace phase-outs of beverage vending machines and cooler equipment. A focus on an overall total reduction in sales of bottled beverages will not be cost-neutral in terms of revenues from bottled beverage sales. This will undoubtedly raise great opposition from the beverage industry and firms and institutions that profit from packaged beverage sales.

The environmental movement will have to expand its definition of bottled water to include water that has been carbonated, sweetened, flavored or brewed and packaged in plastic. A focus on bottled water alone has strategic benefits, especially on a college campus, because plain water can be accessed via drinking fountains. Moreover, allowing other packaged beverages to remain quells critics by providing choices beyond the drinking fountain. There, however, seem to be few discernible differences between bottled water and other bottled beverages: all have water as the primary ingredient, both may have been bottled at the same factory, both are placed in plastic containers, trucked in a vehicle, refrigerated in a machine, tossed into a trash or recycling receptacle, or not properly disposed of at all.

Both movements have built momentum and achieved many accomplishments. Imagine how much more progress can be made if they join forces.



Organizations that Care About Health Should Play No Part in the Soft Drink Industry’s Effort to Rehabilitate Its Public Image

Monday, June 20th, 2011

by Cara Wilking, J.D.

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INTRODUCTION

The United States has the highest per capita rate of carbonated soft drink consumption in the world at 736 eight-ounce servings or 46 gallons per person in 2009.[1] The soft drink industry is dominated by three major companies: The Coca-Cola Company (“Coke”), PepsiCo. (“Pepsi”), and Dr. Pepper Snapple (“DPS”).  Soft drink companies produce concentrate and fountain syrup, and are responsible for marketing existing products and developing new products. Bottlers mix concentrate from soft drink companies and mix it with sweeteners and water to produce bottled and canned beverages. The American Beverage Association (“ABA”) is the industry association representing the non-alcoholic beverage industry. While the United States still has the highest per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the world, overall sales of full-sugar carbonated soft drinks have been declining in recent years. In response to this decline in sales, the soft drink industry has reinvigorated its efforts to engage the public via corporate social responsibility tactics designed to rehabilitate the image of its products.

SOFT DRINK INDUSTRY CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

As large corporations, Coke, Pepsi and DPS, all undertake corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns. Corporate social responsibility generally encompasses a company’s activities and value statements with respect to philanthropy, community, workplace diversity, safety, human rights, and environment. There are various reasons why companies pursue CSR including: organizational values, reaction to threats to transaction costs, brand and competitive positioning, marketing, publicity, and innovation.[2] Concerns generally motivating the soft drink industry’s CSR efforts are evident in The Coca-Cola Company’s 2009 Annual Report:

Consumers, public health officials and government officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the public health consequences associated with obesity, particularly among young people. In addition, some researchers, health advocates and dietary guidelines are encouraging consumers to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including those sweetened with HFCS or other nutritive sweeteners. Increasing public concern about these issues; possible new taxes and governmental regulations concerning the marketing, labeling or availability of our beverages; and negative publicity resulting from actual or threatened legal actions against us or other companies in our industry relating to the marketing, labeling or sale of sugar-sweetened beverages may reduce demand for our beverages, which could affect our profitability.

When faced with such public concern, CSR efforts aim at “legitimizing a corporation’s activities and increasing corporate acceptance.”[3] Philanthropy and cause-marketing campaigns are key parts of the soft drink industry’s CSR efforts.

Soft Drink Industry Philanthropy

Coke and Pepsi both have corporate foundations that make grants to non-profit organizations and institutions.  In 2008, the Coca-Cola Foundation Inc. made over $36 million in grants to organizations worldwide.[4] In 2009, the PepsiCo. Foundation, Inc. made $27.9 million in domestic grants.[5] In order to receive a grant, applicants must engage in work that meets the stated goals of the foundation, make an application and, once funded, follow the grant guidelines. The Coca-Cola Foundation and the PepsiCo. Foundation are required to publicly disclose grant recipients and total assets and expenditures to the Internal Revenue Service in order to maintain tax-exempt status.

Soft Drink Industry Cause-Marketing Campaigns

The use of cause-marketing campaigns is a growing trend facilitated by the rise of social networking online. Also referred to as “cause-related marketing,” cause-marketing traditionally has been defined as “a mutually beneficial collaboration between a corporation and a nonprofit in which their respective assets are combined to: create shareholder and social value; connect with a range of constituents (be they consumers, employees, or suppliers); and communicate the shared values of both organizations.”[6] Cause-marketing is distinct from corporate philanthropy because the corporate funds distributed “are not outright gifts to a nonprofit organization, so they are not treated as tax-deductible charitable contributions.”[7]

The Pepsi Refresh Project is an example of a cause-marketing campaign. Pepsi-Refresh is a program whereby members of the public submit ideas with a funding request and vote on whether or not to fund the concept. In 2010, PepsiCo pledged $20 million in funds for the Refresh campaign. This amount is distinct from its corporate foundation giving made through the PepsiCo Foundation and, as a marketing expenditure, is not subject to the same public disclosures required of private foundations. The underlying goal of the Pepsi Refresh cause marketing campaign is to sell more Pepsi products. When asked if Pepsi Refresh has been successful, Melisa Tezanos, Communications Director of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, replied:

Pepsi Refresh has been an overwhelming success. With over 2.8 billion (with a “B”!) earned media impressions, the project exceeded our internal benchmarks early in the year and we’ve seen an improvement in key brand health metrics. In fact, when Millennials, an important cohort group for Pepsi, know about the Refresh Project their purchase intent goes up.[8]

Ms. Tezanos clearly defines “success” not in terms of work done in the community funded by the program, but rather in terms of increasing the profile of Pepsi products and increasing sales amongst a key demographic. Social media is an important tool in cause-marketing campaigns as it facilitates the sharing of campaign materials that are embedded with product advertising and enables individuals to recruit other individuals to the campaign with relatively little effort.

ENSURING THE INTEGRITY OF YOUR ORGANIZATION’S HEALTH PROMOTION EFFORTS

The practical reality is that soft drinks are now for sale in almost every venue, e.g. hospitals, universities, youth centers, and public buildings via vending machines and on-site retail establishments.  In addition, corporate philanthropy by the soft drink industry and other private companies provides funding to a number of institutions and organizations that also have an interest in health promotion.  While organizations should re-examine traditional arms-length business relationships and donor/recipient relationships, emerging soft drink industry corporate social responsibility efforts that use cause-marketing and public relations tactics require special attention.  As part of a deliberate CSR strategy, these campaigns are embedded with product advertising, and often require participants to enlist other participants via social networking online. In addition, cause-marketing seeks to build an association between a company’s products and a trusted non-profit organization in order to build market share.  Organizations that care about health should establish a policy that identifies and distinguishes between traditional business relationships, corporate philanthropy and cause-marketing and should commit to not participate in cause-marketing campaigns that promote products, such as sugary drinks, that pose a public health threat.


[1] Beverage Digest, Special Issues: Top-10 CSD Results for 2009 (March 24, 2010), http://www.beverage-digest.com/pdf/top-10_2010.pdf.

[2] Michael J. Maloni & Michael E. Brown, Corporate Social Responsibility in the Supply Chain: An Application in the Food Industry, 68 J. Bus. Ethics 35, 36 (2006).

[3] Guido Palazzo & Ulf Richter, CSR Business as Usual? The Case of the Tobacco Industry, 61 J. Bus. Ethics 387, 390 (2005).

[4] The Coca-Cola Foundation, Inc., 2008 Form 990-PF.

[5] PepsiCo. Foundation, Inc. 2009 Form 990-PF.

[6][vi] The Foundation Center, Frequently Asked Questions, http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/faqs/html/cause_marketing.html.
[7] Id.

[8] Christie Garton, Pepsi exec dishes on Pepsi Refresh, future plans for cause marketing, USA Today (Nov. 5, 2010).

 




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