I read a disturbing bit of news yesterday. A Policy Forum article from Washington has been released asserting that corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns by soda companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are misleading and don’t face enough regulation from the government in comparison to Tobacco companies.
I strongly disagree.
My main issue with this study is that it blatantly attacks CSR campaigns such as PepsiCo’s Refresh project, which has awarded grants to community causes such as park restorations, for “distracting” against how harmful their products are.
Read this: “For example, CSR campaigns that include the construction and upgrading of parks for youth who are at risk for diet-related illnesses keep the focus on physical activity, rather than on unhealthful foods and drinks. Such tactics redirect the responsibility for health outcomes from corporations onto its consumers, and externalize the negative effects of increased obesity to the public.”
Let me repeat for emphasis: “Such tactics redirect the responsibility for health outcomes from corporations onto its consumers, and externalize the negative effects of increased obesity to the public.”
My issue with this is the premise, which is that people are victims and can’t take care of themselves. We have a situation where people can’t be blamed for not having the common sense to use soda in moderation. The main point argued is that soda companies aren’t transparent enough about how harmful their beverages are, as if having the ingredients and serving sizes listed out aren’t good enough.
“The soda company made me fat. I thought I would be healthy because they give money to charity.” -Apparently people?
When it comes down to it, bad behavior is a product of ignorance. People know soda is bad for them, but they choose to drink it anyways. Why attack the soda company for using CSR campaigns to increase sales? They are trying to make a profit, sure, but that doesn’t make them “evil” as some people seem to believe. Their product is loved by many people who do drink soda in moderation. What happens to those of us who want to enjoy a can of soda every now and then?
Yes, we should have basic education for people on what is healthy and what isn’t. People should have access to information that lets them now how to take care of their bodies. The solution is not, however, to criminalize soda for having CSR campaigns and then increase regulation as if soda is as harmful as cigarettes.
The result of increasing regulation with soda companies means several things: prices go up, soda companies disappear, jobs disappear, and people are still suffering obesity. I 100% guarantee you that if soda was abolished from the planet, obesity would not end. People are healthy because they exhibit self control and understand that too much of anything is bad for them.
These campaigns would be “misleading” if soda companies were trying to tell us that their products are good for us. Instead of lying, they actually promote campaigns that encourage people to be active in their communities and give to charity, etc.
So, our society is actually likening soda companies, as this article put it, as a “social ill” on par with Tobacco companies and should be reprimanded for trying to position themselves as being “socially acceptable” through CSR. What they’re saying is that a person is wrongfully believing that soda is good for them because a soda company gave some money to charity.
As far as I can see, this is baseless on the fact that soda companies are not in the business of controlling our behavior. They’re selling us a product.