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The Procter and Gamble Project?
August 10, 2007 9:20 AM   Subscribe

American Express's highly publicized Members Project has come to an end. A novel idea: Cardmembers nominated and voted for charities--and the nominee with the most votes won $2 mil. The winner? Children's Safe Drinking Water, a nonprofit that works with nonprofits to battle the public health crisis of contaminated drinking water in third-world countries by distributing water purification kits. Why on earth would anyone call foul on this? Bear with me here. [more inside]
posted by cowboy_sally (30 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here’s why: CSDW is the philanthropic brainchild of Procter and Gamble, monolith producer of nearly every consumer good on the planet. And who nominated it? Dr. Greg Allgood, director of P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water program. How do they aid in the creation of potable water? By selling P&G’s PUR water purification kits at cost to "partners" such as PSI and UNICEF. Of course, Allgood followed the contest guidelines and didn’t mention PUR or P&G in the contest entry. CSDW won with over 30K votes. Coming in a distant second was Donors Choose, where teachers submit project proposals and donors decide who to fund. [previously mentioned here.]

Up until the last week of the Members Project, CSDW was in third place. Did P&G's 135K employees stuff the ballot box? They got the company-wide email about it. (Another funny thing: When cardmembers called Amex and P&G on the Members Project message board, the comments--and eventually the board itself--went *poof*.) You can argue that regardless of the motivation, hundred of thousands of lives will be saved. Or that the $2 mil will go to UNICEF, which has the option of buying anyone's water purifiers--not specifically P&G's. But if UNICEF's purchased CSDW in the past (e.g., the 2005 tsunami in Thailand and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan), why wouldn't they now? And if P&G makes billions in profits every year, why the hell aren't they donating their goods free of charge in the first place?

(Via, via, via.)
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:21 AM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


[Crap, the first link in the second graf is munged. This is the CSDW site.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:23 AM on August 10, 2007


And they would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their safe drinking water!
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:24 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does smell rather fishy. But why would P&G go through hoops to get $2 million in funding? From their perspective, that's an altogether insignificant sum.

I suppose there might be some promotional value in winning the contest, but P&G is hardly at a loss for advertising or promotion.
posted by aladfar at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2007


And if P&G makes billions in profits every year, why the hell aren't they donating their goods free of charge in the first place?

Um, because the shareholders-- the ones who are entitled to the cash flow, having foregone consumption in favor of thrift-- can make up their own minds, individually, about what to do with P&G's profits?
posted by Kwantsar at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Does smell rather fishy.

You obviously need a PUR brand water filter. I can sell you one at cost.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:38 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well they are donating them at cost, but presumably that includes salaries and whatnot.
posted by delmoi at 9:42 AM on August 10, 2007


Is anyone surprised that this happened?
posted by k8t at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2007





Does smell rather fishy. But why would P&G go through hoops to get $2 million in funding? From their perspective, that's an altogether insignificant sum.


Reasons?

How about as a pet project of the manager?
How about more greenwash for P&G? Shareholder value is generated by creating a 'shiny nice image' for corporate monoliths: what better way than to hijack another companies attempt to greenwash too!
posted by lalochezia at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2007


wait...they sell the kits at cost?

So the only foul is whatever secondary benefits they get from increased production? In terms of corporate collusion, that's pretty ho-hum.

Good on them for selling at cost. That's more than most are willing to do for poor countries.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Um, because the shareholders-- the ones who are entitled to the cash flow, having foregone consumption in favor of thrift

LOL
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:48 AM on August 10, 2007


Apparently, all you need is a few drops of bleach in a gallon of water in order to purify it. Let's just send the Third World an assload of Clorox and be done with it.
posted by gsh at 9:48 AM on August 10, 2007


They got the company-wide email about it.

Ha. Like anyone reads those.

The only way to get employees to do something like this is to make it a task of the manager. And even then it's like pulling teeth.
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2007


From the article:
A spokeswoman for American Express, Desiree Fish, stressed that the project’s only connection to P.& G. was through the card member who proposed the idea, Gregory S. Allgood.

Ms. Fish said Mr. Allgood, who is the director of Procter & Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, had submitted his idea under that name.

“No money will go to Procter & Gamble,” Ms. Fish said.

Rather, if the project wins the contest, Unicef would receive the money and use it to support clean water efforts. “American Express took card members’ ideas that were submitted and paired them with an organization of our choosing to help bring an idea to life,” Ms. Fish said.

Although Unicef and P.& G. have an alliance, a spokeswoman for Unicef, Lisa Szarkowski, said any money from the contest would be allocated through competitive bidding.
posted by blixco at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2007


Three cheers for Lisa Szarkowski!
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:58 AM on August 10, 2007


Three cheers for Lisa Szarkowski!

If you read this article, which I linked to above, you'll see that UNICEF has consistently purchased PUR products. As has PSI. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it's a foregone conclusion that P&G will be selling it to them again.
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:05 AM on August 10, 2007


[As a final aside, PUR products don't just remove contaminants. The also remove logos!]
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2007


UNICEF has consistently purchased PUR products because no one else has bid lower.

Come up with a better system than open competitive bidding for contracts, and I'll sign up.
posted by blixco at 10:48 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


They got the company-wide email about it.

Ha. Like anyone reads those.


As an American Express card holder, I was blisssfully unaware of the project. Duh.
posted by Cranberry at 11:22 AM on August 10, 2007


Desiree Fish? That's the most unbelievable aspect of the whole post, that her real name is Desiree Fish.

Sounds like a stripper from a really bad part of town.
posted by misha at 11:44 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


gsh writes "all you need is a few drops of bleach in a gallon of water in order to purify it. Let's just send the Third World an assload of Clorox and be done with it."

From the project page: Only 2 cents will purchase one water purification tablet to clean 5 liters of water, $48 can purchase a portable latrine and $5,000 can buy a solar water pump.

So ya it sounds like they _are_ distributing bleach. Though it sounds like the tablets do more: project idea. It's a simple powder that you add to water so it removes the pollutants, sediment, and parasites and also kills the bacteria and viruses.

They get the sediment out with iron sulfate with acts as a cologulant which can then be strained out.
posted by Mitheral at 12:12 PM on August 10, 2007


Good post. Thanks.
posted by briank at 12:44 PM on August 10, 2007


PUR water filters: if they're good enough for an unregulated third-world country, they're good enough for you!
posted by davejay at 12:52 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a lot of noise about a token sum dreamed up by some PR flac.

You want to talk about a real scandal? How about the .7% of GDP rich nations promised in aid in 1970, and how almost all rich nations fail this obligation.

Last year, the US spent a pathetic .17%, an increase from previous years, but much of this is debt relief to Iraq and Nigeria. Hmm.

Canada? Not much better, only .3%, about the same as Australia and New Zealand. The UK is the closest to their obligation in the English speaking developed world, giving .52%.

The only states who meet this obligation: Sweden (1.03%), Luxembourg (0.89%), Norway (0.89%), the Netherlands (0.81%), Denmark (0.8%).

But even these numbers may overstate aid, since it is rarely given on the basis of need. More often than not, aid is given to advance the interests of the donor state, surprise!

Last month was 07/07/07, a day many people felt was auspicious for whatever reason, but was there any significant coverage of the "awareness campaign" that day to get the OECD states to live up to these goals? Fuck no. Stop whining about what AMEX and P&G do to create the veneer of "responsible corporate citizens," whatever that means, and start demanding that your governments live up to their promises to the billions of people who through no fault of their own are trapped in poverty we can barely comprehend.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:16 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's easy to set goals, and a lot harder to achieve them.
posted by smackfu at 1:49 PM on August 10, 2007


It's funny how some countries find this goal a great deal easier to achieve than others. Since one of the core tennants of the Christian faith is to give to the poor until it hurts, these nations must all have more politically active Christian communities.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:22 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


It could be worse. They could be giving the money to Darth Vader.
posted by Nahum Tate at 2:33 PM on August 10, 2007


The more you tax the GDP, the more of it there is to give away.
posted by smackfu at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2007


For what it's worth, I went to college with the research chemist who invented the purifying powder. Very, very smart guy.

But $2m for this project is a drop in the bucket, if you pardon the pun, and given how AmEx sold the 'Members' Project', it's not really the kind of targetted small-scale thing that the 'regular guy' in the commercial adds to the set of celebrity causes. So I think there's room to be disappointed with AmEx for failing to deliver what they implied: that is, to raise awareness of the kind of projects where $2m makes a huge difference.
posted by holgate at 3:46 PM on August 10, 2007


AmEx sucks for giving away $2 million and P&G sucks for selling products for no profit that will help kids get clean drinking water.

Fight the power!
posted by Duluth?! I Hardly Know Her! at 2:05 PM on August 11, 2007


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