Does corporate social responsibility pay off for corporations? Indeed it does. Corporate money buys silence, if nothing else.
William Neuman of The New York Times provides a perfect example of how corporate sponsorship gets precisely what it is intended to do.
In this particular case:
• The corporations are soda companies, Coke and Pepsi.
• The social responsibility is donations of millions of dollars to a good cause.
• The cause is Save the Children, a group devoted to child health and development projects internationally and domestically.
• The intention? Get Save the Children to stop advocating in favor of soda taxes.
Not long ago, Save the Children was a strong advocate for soda taxes. Now it is not. How come? The group's website explains:
about a minute ago we said, Corporate donors support us but do not pressure us. Our focus is children not soda tax policy. Back to saving more children now.
The Times, however, suggests a different explanation:
executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity. The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped ... In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group's about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes.
A mere coincidence? I don't think so. This is a clear win for soda companies, just as was Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the educational activities of the American Academy of Family Physicians. You can bet those activities do not involve telling parents not to give sodas to their kids.