Pepsi Blue?
January 26, 2006 6:17 AM   Subscribe

davos 2006: Is Red the new blue? GAP, NIKE, American Express and Bono get together to save Africa from Aids. Bono, asked if he was being used by big business, replied that he was not a "cheap date."
posted by twistedonion (55 comments total)

 
According to the BBC Bono said that

"Philanthropy is like hippy music, holding hands. Red is more like punk rock, hip hop, this should feel like hard commerce," Bono said.

So is Bono trying to subvert the system or just holding hands with the Devil?
posted by twistedonion at 6:21 AM on January 26, 2006


From the article: "...a new Amex 'Red Card' whose reverse side carries the statement: "This card is designed to eliminate HIV in Africa.""

Ew, so it's saturated in AZT and 3TC?
posted by Plutor at 6:25 AM on January 26, 2006


So....they're helping to slow the spread of AIDS by promoting slave labor, which leads to poverty, which helps to increase the spread of AIDS?
posted by unreason at 6:29 AM on January 26, 2006


Yep, that and help us feel a bit better about ourselves in the process.

And of course, it's not the corporations being charitable, it's us:

The companies stressed the scheme will only succeed and be sustainable if it also generates money for the businesses taking part.

I'm honestly thinking of setting up a site calling for a boycott of this bollocks : www.productshite.com
posted by twistedonion at 6:32 AM on January 26, 2006


Promoting slave labor? What on earth are you talking about?
posted by zeoslap at 6:32 AM on January 26, 2006


Large corporations get lots of attention and sometimes make lots of money. If they are able to draw some attention and money to important causes, that is a good thing. Should Bono shun American Express, reject directing any of their money on AIDS prevention?

That's about the "sellout" issue-- there are grounds to criticize the implementation. If only 1% of your Amex 'Red Card' luxury purchases go to a worthy cause, is this more about getting a hip fashion accessory than actually helping? And is Nike making stuff in sweatshops, and sending .3% of the profits to Africa to buy better publicity? But, 1% of your money going to AIDS prevention is better than 0%. So, mark me down as ambivalent.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:35 AM on January 26, 2006


Promoting slave labor? What on earth are you talking about?

Let's just say Nike and Gap aren't exactly the most sociallly minded of employers out there. I would have few beefs with this idea if it was ethically minded businesses taking part.

Bono has a hell of a lot of power for a rock star and he could have lpicked anyone to work on this idea with him.
posted by twistedonion at 6:35 AM on January 26, 2006


Promoting slave labor? What on earth are you talking about?
posted by zeoslap at 9:32 AM EST on January 26 [!]


Nike is one of the companies that will profit from this scheme. They've been caught on several occasions using slave labor, even after they promised to stop.
posted by unreason at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2006


Promoting slave labor? What on earth are you talking about?

The manufacturers of Gap and Nike products do not generally pay their workers that well. Or at least, they didn't used to, I don't make a habit of inspecting factories in the 3rd world lately. Does anyone know exactly what they are up to these days when it comes to pay and working conditions?
posted by public at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2006


Is Red the new blue?

Is Bono the new Jesus?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:38 AM on January 26, 2006


The manufacturers of Gap and Nike products do not generally pay their workers that well

They also have a tendancy to either rape or beat the crap out of them when they ask for money, among other things.
posted by unreason at 6:40 AM on January 26, 2006


Wouldn't it just be easier to have the red card be a means of contributing all funds to the HIV product? For example, buying a red card for $25 means all $25 goes to reducing HIV in Africa? Sure, you'd be stuck a non-utilitarian piece of plastic, but as long as the tag line remains on the back, one can still feel good.

I gave up on the "selling out" thing a long time ago, but the statement that business needs to make a profit to make it work brings out the real purpose - more profit via a play upon emotions.
posted by infowar at 6:41 AM on January 26, 2006


Not to mention the system of global trade itself has created influx of people to the cities, and the creation of slums. I think it's fair to lump AIDS in with one of the many social evils resulting (thriving).
posted by iamck at 6:43 AM on January 26, 2006


So what if it's a marketing ploy? It'll still raise money for Africa. I want to be as cynical about this as the next person, but I don't think you have to be completely pure and blame-free in all areas of your life to do something good. If I buy Nike does that mean I shouldn't bother giving to Oxfam?
posted by londonmark at 6:44 AM on January 26, 2006


So what if it's a marketing ploy?

Because it's despicable that's why. If someone buys a "product Red" item why is all the profit not going to charity? 1%!!!! That's pathetic.

Spend your money in Oxfam, not on product red.
posted by twistedonion at 6:50 AM on January 26, 2006


"An ordinary person can simply walk into a shop and feel that they can participate in helping the needy by simply buying a perfume," said Armani, one of the world's top fashion designers.

Bold emphasis mine.

In general, I haven't been swayed by the criticism that Bono gets for his efforts, but this does seem mostly cosmetic.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:52 AM on January 26, 2006


I resolved never to buy Nike after the whole subhuman working conditions debacle. Their shoes are expensive and fall apart anyway, so the only reason to buy them was prestige -- prestige you don't get by buying something built from human suffering. (Hey, I was a teenager when I liked Nike, OK? I'm somewhat less of a brand-whore now.)


Anyway, the whole project reeks of cliché these corporate BS charities never seem to accomplish anything, but I guess we'll see what happens.
posted by delmoi at 6:58 AM on January 26, 2006


Not to mention the system of global trade itself has created influx of people to the cities, and the creation of slums. I think it's fair to lump AIDS in with one of the many social evils resulting (thriving).

Rather then starving when the crops don't work out one year. In any event, I've never seen any evidence that urban africans are more at risk for AIDS then rural ones, but don't let that lack of data get in the way of your bizarre agrarian utopian vision. Not that you'll be working on a farm anytime soon, of course.
posted by delmoi at 7:01 AM on January 26, 2006


This type of tokenism really pisses me off. I can't believe that Gap, Nike et al are going for this with any sort of altruism or "public responsibility". No way. Bono = hot, his endorsements sell stuff. Nike = wants to sell stuff. This 1% going to charity is not going to hurt them at all, and yet they act as if they deserve full credit for the salvation of Africa.
posted by katiecat at 7:02 AM on January 26, 2006


If someone buys a "product Red" item why is all the profit not going to charity?

That's a rhetorical question, right? These companies are in the business of making money. Are you telling me you don't buy consumer products because none of the profit goes to charity? Of course not. And I bet you don't buy ethical either. So if you want a credit card or a new pair of trainers, what's wrong with picking one that contributes to something worthwhile?

In an ideal world we would all be buying ethical, but we don't. These brands remain huge because people choose them in spite of their dodgy practices. So I don't see what's wrong with them giving something back. It's not nearly enough, I agree, but it's a start.
posted by londonmark at 7:12 AM on January 26, 2006


These companies are in the business of making money.

They wouldn't be losing money by giving all profit to the charity. Consider it Marketing or brand awareness. Companies such as Nike spend 10s of millions every year on marketing. Product Red wil be doing marketing for them.

They do not need to profit from this. That is my point.

And I bet you don't buy ethical either.

At every opportunity I try to. I don't buy Nike, I try to buy organic foods, I'm setting up a bank account with the co-operative bank. There are ways to be a 'good' consumer. What irritates me about this is that people will now say - "I can buy Gap guilt free because they are charitable". No they are not, you are being conned.

So if you want a credit card or a new pair of trainers, what's wrong with picking one that contributes to something worthwhile?

They are not contributing, you are.
posted by twistedonion at 7:21 AM on January 26, 2006


If corporations just gave profits to charity without obtaining some sort of return they would be breaking the law and defrauding their investors.

That Bono is trying to find a win/win situation is a good thing. He is doing much more than any of us are.

For chuckles: Rest Of U2 Perfectly Fine With Africans Starving

posted by srboisvert at 7:35 AM on January 26, 2006


Doesn't the Bronx have a higher infection rate than Africa?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 7:42 AM on January 26, 2006


If corporations just gave profits to charity without obtaining some sort of return they would be breaking the law and defrauding their investors.

wow, what a fucked up world this is, I honestly didn't know that.
posted by twistedonion at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2006


It's companies doing strong branding and aligning their brand with a cause that is nearly completely uncontroversial. There are credit cards that give a percentage back; this particular American Express gives it to an organization. These are efforts that say "We know you're too lazy or thrifty to actually cut a check to AIDS research and treatment, so we'll get these companies to take a little more of your money for us."

The scheme is designed to dramatically increase funds for fighting disease, drawing on the spending power of so-called "conscience consumers" in affluent Western societies.

There you go. Everyone has to consume, but not everyone has to be charitable. To me, the ideal conscience consumer is the consumer that consumes least. This campaign is not for people with that definition.
posted by mikeh at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2006


That Bono is trying to find a win/win situation is a good thing. He is doing much more than any of us are.

I honestly don't believe that to be true. All he is doing is legitimising Corporate greed... "See, we may be ripping you off, but hey, we're giving a bit of your money to a charity we chose. We are good guys, honest"


Also, I had a think about your last statement re: the legality of giving all profit to charity... ok, so keep 1% as your profit, that would then be legal and not defrauding right?
posted by twistedonion at 8:46 AM on January 26, 2006


wow, what a fucked up world this is, I honestly didn't know that.
posted by twistedonion at 11:40 AM EST on January 26 [!]


It's actually not as fucked up as you think. Remember, these investors own the company. It belongs to them. The guys in charge of the company are just managing it. It's like when you deposit money in the bank. The bank is managing your money, and they're holding on to it, but it's still yours. If the bank were to give your money away to a soup kitchen without asking you first, you'd probably be pissed. Even if you had planned to donate yourself, you'd probably be pissed, because it should be your choice when to give and how much and not the bank's. The people running the company don't have the right to give the money away because it's not actually their money; they're just managing it on the behalf of the investors.
posted by unreason at 8:48 AM on January 26, 2006


The bank is managing your money, and they're holding on to it, but it's still yours.

No, I don't get this connection. The corporation would not lose it's stockholders money by selling product Red free from profits. They gain free publicity and so long as product red remains a small part of their product range then it would not eat into their other products. Instead it should actually lead to an increase in sales of the other products. It's a bit like itunes living away one free song per week. It leads people in.
posted by twistedonion at 8:55 AM on January 26, 2006


Bards of the Powerful.
posted by slow, man at 8:55 AM on January 26, 2006


giving, not living.
posted by twistedonion at 8:56 AM on January 26, 2006


The corporation would not lose it's stockholders money by selling product Red free from profits.

posted by twistedonion at 11:55 AM EST on January 26 [!]


You raise a good point, but we don't know that that will be the effect on overall profits because no market analysis has been done. More limited charitable giving has, of course, been done with this kind of justification, but it'd be risky on this large a scale. Basically, in order to be fair to the stockholders, the management has to do the following: Only do stuff that seems like it will maximize profits. In the case of something that might lose money, you must perform due dilligence. This means that you have to carefully consider the positives and negatives, so that if you end up losing money, the investors know that you didn't lose it by being an irresponsible dumb-ass. Basically, in order to give away some of their products without profit, they would have to do a cost benefit analysis that shows that their overall profits would go up.
posted by unreason at 9:04 AM on January 26, 2006


Does Discover still give 2% cash back? 'Cause you could just use that and then give your cash back directly to whatever charity you wanted, couldn't you? And you could probably write whatever you wanted on the back of it with a Sharpie.
posted by fidelity at 9:06 AM on January 26, 2006


I'm probably far too naive in these affairs (not a business man at all) but to my mind a $10 million dollar spot in the Superbowl is also a risk that may lose a corporation money. I see n=no difference here. My main gripe is that the amount that will end up going to charity will be negligible compared to the profit made by the companies involved.

My other major problem with Bono and his cause is what slow, man linked to - I think that Monbiot is spot on when he says:

They urge the G8 leaders to do more to help the poor. But they say nothing about ceasing to do harm.

Same could be applied to the business partners Bono has now jumped into bed with.
posted by twistedonion at 9:13 AM on January 26, 2006


sorry, really got to spell check, trying to post comments inbetween work.
posted by twistedonion at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2006


there needs to be a name for it--like "greenwashing" when it's oil/energy companies.

the fact that so many of these companies purposely operate using child labor and in countries without labor laws belies any good they think they're doing--it's just PR until they actually change their operating procedures.
posted by amberglow at 9:17 AM on January 26, 2006


but to my mind a $10 million dollar spot in the Superbowl is also a risk that may lose a corporation money.

Not as much of a one. If you know how many people watch the game, then you're making a clear investment in getting your project in front of the consumer. Advertising's a standard thing that has been shown to work. Since your idea is more unconventional, it would need more study before it could be defended to the stockholders.

Note, by the way, that I'm not defending the practices of these companies. I'm just saying that they're not withholding charity money just to piss you off, they're doing it because it's not really their money to spend.
posted by unreason at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2006



the fact that so many of these companies purposely operate using child labor and in countries without labor laws belies any good they think they're doing--it's just PR until they actually change their operating procedures.


If anyone has any specific information regarding the companies involved would they mind posting them here or emailing me.

I have registered productred.info and would like to use it to provide a bit of balance to this campaign. I don't intend needlessly bashing the companies involved but I would like to use the domain as unbiased info for consumers to make an informed choice.

If the companies end up giving 10% of the profit from these products then let people know. If it's only going to be 5% then, again, let people know. If a company is involved but uses child labour then highlight it.
posted by twistedonion at 9:27 AM on January 26, 2006


First of all, I'd like to know what's wrong with Amex Red.

1% of all purchases go to help Aids in Africa.

That's far more interesting than the AMEX One card (where 1% of all my purchases go into a savings account, for my own personal use), or the AMEX and Discover Cash Back cards, where the annual cash returns are applied to your balance once a year, so if I charge $5k/month, once a year I get a bill for $4k instead of $5k.

Secondly, I suggest you all read the article more carefully. The other products are all currently undisclosed amounts. The 1% only applies to the credit card.

Personally, I think this is a great idea.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2006


I'm just saying that they're not withholding charity money just to piss you off, they're doing it because it's not really their money to spend.

I do kinda understand that (even though my conscience is screaming "it was the consumers money in first place!!!").

I also understand that individuals within corporations find it nearly impossible to affect change, so it's possible the directors of the companies are attempting to solve this issue in the best way they can.... and it may yet turn out to be a good thing. Still doesn't sit right with me though, whatever way I try to look at it.
posted by twistedonion at 9:35 AM on January 26, 2006


there needs to be a name for it--like "greenwashing" when it's oil/energy companies.

How about soulwaxing?

I know I am going to sound like a republican here but what is wrong with people giving to charities they believe in? Corporate profits end up in the hands of shareholders who are then free to donate to charity if they want.

Unless it benefits the company's bottom line they absolutely should not give to a charity. Imagine if you owned stock in a company and they decided to give all their profit from a product line to a charity you didn't like - like say a pro-life charity if you are a democrat or an abortion clinic if your are a republican. Sure sell your stock but what if everyone else who agrees with you does the same? You're screwed.
posted by srboisvert at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2006


I know I am going to sound like a republican here but what is wrong with people giving to charities they believe in? Corporate profits end up in the hands of shareholders who are then free to donate to charity if they want.

There's nothing wrong with sounding like a Republican.

As for this donation scheme, it's a great promotion. The companies are hoping to increase overall profits by publicly giving away a portion of the income.

If consumers decide to care, the businesses make more money, the cause gets direct financial support, and widely increased awareness, and everybody wins (except people who think there should be more AIDS in Africa).
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2006


twistedonion: I'd be careful with your website. You could easily drive some consumers from an ethically shady product that gives money to help aids to an ethically shady product that doesn't help anybody.

I'm all for consumer awareness, but if you don't research viable alternative choices as well, there's no point to it.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:52 AM on January 26, 2006


Some Nike charity efforts.

Some Gap charity efforts.

Corporations are so greedy.
posted by archimago at 10:03 AM on January 26, 2006


In any event, I've never seen any evidence that urban africans are more at risk for AIDS then rural ones, but don't let that lack of data get in the way of your bizarre agrarian utopian vision. Not that you'll be working on a farm anytime soon, of course.

"In addition, rural communities bear a higher burden of the cost of HIV/AIDS as many urban dwellers and migrant labourers return to their village of origin when they fall ill."

..but don't let the possibility of a meaningful discussion get in the way of your snarky comments and ad hominem attacks. See you on the farm.
posted by iamck at 10:11 AM on January 26, 2006


twistedonion: I'd be careful with your website.

Oh, I will be. It may never even see the light of day... When I read this news earlier my heart sank and as a reaction I got the domain and posted this fpp to help me make an informed decision.

I think my own internal conflicts arise from an overwhelming feeling of having been duped in the past. I got the make poverty history bands, I attended the rallies, I hoped the march on the G8 would bring the many worthy causes to leaders attention. In the end though all Bono and Geldof did was to help the leaders in the G8 get away with alot and give very little.

I now have the fear the same thing will happen here. A fear I have is that people who would otherwise give to multiple charities will not because they will feel that by buying these products they are doing their bit, that they are doing something. When really, they could be doing more by buying less and giving more.
posted by twistedonion at 10:12 AM on January 26, 2006


Product web site up
posted by twistedonion at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2006


I feel like this is pissing into the wind, and not on someone's parade, but you'all know that Gap and Nike don't own a single factory or employee a single third world 4 year old orphan seamstress.

These products are made by vendors, usually with offices based out of Hong Kong and factories in mainland China, Thailand or Vietnam.

There is a pool of these vendors, which all the major shoe brands shop from. Someone designs a shoe and shops it around to see who can manufacture it cheapest or fastest or whatever.

At the bottom of all the Purchase Orders for these things are the terms that the vendors are supposed to adhere to. Things like not using blind infants to thread shoelaces and such.

Now, as greedy evil people can be, there have been vendors who will agree to the terms and proceed to do whatever is cheapest in their factories. The U.S. based buyers are very detached from the process. Especially today where a lot of the supply chain process is automated.

Now, should the buyers have more responsibility for insuring that who they are buying from is adhering to the law. I don't think anybody would argue with that. But is Phil Knight out there beating children with a stick made of rolled up $100 bills...

Also, if you avoiding Nike to not support 'child labor' just know that there are only a certain number of vendors out there, that they mostly all have contracts with all the big brands, and if anything, since Nike has had all the negative press, they are the most stringent with their vendors on insuring that they adhere to the additional terms on the Purchase Orders.

International Trade is pretty complex, and it sounds like most of you learned about these issues from the movies. Do some research people...
posted by PissOnYourParade at 10:37 AM on January 26, 2006


What was the old blue?
posted by grobstein at 12:07 PM on January 26, 2006


srboisvert "If corporations just gave profits to charity without obtaining some sort of return they would be breaking the law and defrauding their investors."

Illegal? Fraud? Sorry... that's simply not true.

My employer -- a publicly-held corporation (with extensive employee ownership) -- contributes at least five percent of its pre-tax profit annually to support socially responsible initiatives, and has done so for more than 10 years.

The return? Certainly, many of our efforts help stabilize our supply chain, build trust and community. Other times, we contribute simply because it's the right thing to do.

Apparently our shareholders agree...
posted by deCadmus at 1:01 PM on January 26, 2006


International Trade is pretty complex

Yes, and this is an inherent side effect of it, which makes the results kind of simple.
posted by iamck at 1:30 PM on January 26, 2006


Oh Bono. If, by calling this"punk rock," you are attempting to get Joe Strummer and/or three-quarters of the Ramones to spin in their graves so fast that they are somehow actually resurrected to walk the earth in order to beat you with a fucking shillelagh with the lyrics to "EMI" scrawled on the side, then I salute you, wee Irish megalomaniac.
posted by scody at 1:50 PM on January 26, 2006


MetaFilter: No good deed goes unpunished.
posted by ColdChef at 2:55 PM on January 26, 2006


Good points, PissOnYourParade. The nature of the "International Trade" system (free trade, globalization, whatever you want to call it) means that Nike has to turn a blind eye to child labor/sweatshops in favor of profits. They could easily afford to enforce an ethical policy for their workers but it won't happen - the system works against this.

More corporate greed to be found here...
posted by tommyc at 3:29 PM on January 26, 2006


The return? Certainly, many of our efforts help stabilize our supply chain, build trust and community. Other times, we contribute simply because it's the right thing to do.

Apparently our shareholders agree...


Sure. But you also sell specialty coffee. Your donations have a huge marketing impact. Given the value of the fair trade feel good vibe for upmarket coffee I am actually surprised you're company only donates 5% before taxes. With the tax break your actual cost to donate is probably a bit less.

You're greenwashing your product just like nike. Perhaps with a higher % donation but you certainly are not turning over all your profit to causes.

Why aren't you donating more? Probably because you don't have to and because it would probably be fiscally irresponsible and be perceived as such by the shareholders. Too big a bite out of the profits and you're looking at a new board of directors or a lack of investor confidence.

If you donated all your profits from your pro-social product lines like some here suggest what would happen?

The board of directors of a publicly traded company have a legal obligation to the shareholders. To make donations without some benefit to the shareholders is to violate that trust.
posted by srboisvert at 4:52 PM on January 26, 2006


Idunno, srboisvert... maybe I'm naive (naw, too cynical) but I can't imagine why giving something back isn't a part of every company's mission.

Oh yeah... there's that naked greed thing.

I think there's a really big gradient between money-grubbing corporate greed and donating all one's profits to a cause... surely most BODs could find somewhere therein to perch.

'Cause there's certainly no shortage of need in the world.
posted by deCadmus at 10:52 AM on January 27, 2006


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