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Friday, February 27, 2015

Strategic CSR - Clif Bar

The article in the url below reports on an instance of a firm (Clif Bar) withdrawing its endorsement of five athletes that all appeared in a recently released documentary, Valley Uprising (see the trailer at: What is interesting about Clif Bar's decision to withdraw its support for the athletes (who you would think are closely intertwined with the company's vision and mission) is that the firm did it not because the athletes did something wrong, but because Clif Bar was worried about exploiting them:
"Clif Bar has withdrawn its sponsorship of five top professional climbers … , some with a year or more left on their contracts, saying the climbers take risks that make the company too uncomfortable to continue financial support. It has stirred debate in the outdoors community, creating rare introspection about how much risk should be rewarded."
Essentially, Clif Bar reports that it was reluctant to continue benefitting from its association with the athletes' success when that success is based on the athletes risking their lives in very dangerous sports:
"Among those whose contracts were withdrawn were Alex Honnold and Dean Potter, each widely credited with pushing the boundaries of [free soloing and highlining] in recent years. … Other climbers who lost their Clif Bar contracts were Timmy O'Neill and Steph Davis, who spends much of her time BASE jumping (parachuting from a fixed object, like a building, an antenna, a span or earth) and wing-suit flying. Last year, her husband, Mario Richard, was killed when he crashed in a wing suit."
While we can debate whether or not there were additional hidden motives that were driving the firm's decision, I think the fact that the company even thought to articulate this explanation demonstrates a sensitivity that we rarely see in corporate communications.
To see Alex Honnold's reply to Clif Bar's decision, see this follow-up article in the NY Times:
Have a good weekend.
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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A Sponsor Steps Away From the Edge
By John Branch
November 14, 2014
The New York Times