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Friday, April 12, 2013

Strategic CSR - Size

The article in the url below criticizes anti-obesity campaigns. Being The Wall Street Journal, of course, the blame for obesity is placed on individual free will and societal changes, rather than on the companies that seek to take advantage of that freewill (and the human frailties, such as our addictions to salt, sugar, and fat, that play such a large part in determining our food and drink consumption choices) and help alter norms:
“Food prices have fallen in relation to incomes. Jobs have become less strenuous. Instead of being paid to exercise, now people must pay to exercise. … Social feedbacks seem to be at work. As the median person became fatter, it became socially acceptable to be fat.”
What is interesting about the article, however, is that it also discusses why it is that activists who pursue social goals (such as reduced obesity) see value in targeting large, for-profit firms to further their cause. The alternative is to target individual consumers, who, if they did change their consumption habits, would actually bring about the activists’ goals much more quickly:
“When anti-obesity activists rattle on about how terrible obesity is, no one listens. When they rattle on about how terrible fast-food chains and soft-drink companies are for causing the obesity crisis, the media, plaintiffs bar and politicians pay attention.”
In particular:
“A fact of life for companies whose livelihood is powerful, expensively promoted, and universally recognized brands is that others will try to capture and expropriate a tiny sliver of that brand power to advance their own agendas.”
It is the same phenomenon that focuses attention on Walmart, Nike, Shell, and any other large multi-national firm with broad brand awareness and deep-pockets (all the better to sue you with). These firms do a lot wrong, but they also do a lot right. With greater consumer awareness and actions aimed at encouraging the good behavior and discouraging the bad (see: Strategic CSR: Corporate Stakeholder Responsibility), they would do even more.
Have a good weekend.
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The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at:
Coke and the Calorie Wars
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
January 30, 2013
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final