Corporations Exploiting The Concept Of Socially Responsible Business?

Gap Red

I’m sure you’ve all seen the ads for Gap’s Product Red Campaign. Through this campaign,

Gap, Apple, American Express and other companies offer products under the Red brand and give part of the profits to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The campaign uses a model similar to that used by Ethos Water. Its bottles are available for sale at all Starbucks. A bottle costs $2, and Starbucks contributes $0.05 from each bottle sold to help people in the third world get access to potable water.

Despite the similarities, The Red campaign has been lambasted by bloggers such as Richard Kim, a blogger at The Nation, and Michael Medved, a movie critic, who called the campaign a:

“scam” because, he wrote, it is merely an excuse for companies “to jack up their prices on ordinary merchandise to ridiculous levels, and not all the difference in price is actually going to the charity.”

This brings up a serious debate– does it really matter that companies use socially responsible “campaigns” as a dishonest attempt to increase their bottom lines? It does matter, and I think all this controversy can easily be avoided if the businesses simply gave consumers information about how much of each sale was going to charity. I think socially responsible business models still work and they shouldn’t be criticized just because Bobby Shriver made some bad comments.

OneBrick and ProductRed

I found this review of philanthrophic websites via digg.com. I’ve blogged about most of the sites but two I have not covered are OneBrick:

One Brick is a commitment-free nonprofit volunteer organization pointing you quickly to what needs to get done and who needs your help. Sign up on your terms to bypass the tedium of long-term planning, meetings or orientations.

and ProductRed:

Sometimes you don’t have to do anything but be consumer to help. Apple just announced the iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition. More than just a sassy color – Apple donates $10 of the purchase price to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

As always, if you hear of any other organizations that are trying to do good online, please shoot me an email!

Google To Install Record Number of Solar Panels At Its Headquarters

Solar Panels

Search giant Google will begin constructing the nation’s largest solar electricity system on its Mountain View campus, the company said today.

The system will have a total capacity of 1.6 megawattas, which is enough to power 1,000 homes in the US. The solar panels sound pretty complex. Energy Innovations, a company out of Pasadena, is making solar panels that will track the sun as it moves, which should increase the efficiency of these new designs.

Microfinance Pioneer Receives Nobel Peace Prize

Microfinance Nobel Peace Prize
Adding more traction to the microfinance space, Bangladeshi banker and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

He intends to use the prize money to set up a food company and a hospital in Bangladesh.

“Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty,” the Nobel Committee said in its citation. “Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.”

To learn more about microfinance, check out the entry over at Wikipedia. Congrats to Muhammad Yunus, he truly deserves this.

Libya Orders 1.2 Million Computers From OLPC

OLPC

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the government of Libya has agreed to order 1.2 million computers from Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project.

“When I met with Qaddafi, it had all the mystique and trimmings expected: middle of the desert, in a tent, 50 degrees C. etc.,” Mr. Negroponte, who was traveling to Asia on Tuesday, wrote in an e-mail message. “It took him very little time to find O.L.P.C. appealing as an idea.”

The article doesn’t put Microsoft in a very good light because it suggests that Microsoft refused to sell its Windows operating system to OLPC for an acceptable price. Also, see my related previous post on Intel’s Classmate PC.

Intel Unveils ClassmatePC- Rival To One Laptop Per Child

Intel Classmate PC

Intel recently unveiled the ClassmatePC, a budget laptop computer that’s been in the works ever since Craig Barrett called the OLCP laptop (akfa. $100 Laptop) a toy. The two camps have differing opinions on what aspects of computing are most relevant to students in underdeveloped countries. Intel argues for affordability and compatibility with mainstream software.

How does the Classmate PC compare to the 2B1 [OLPC] laptop? With twice as much memory, twice as much storage capacity, and a significantly faster processor, the Classmate PC outstrips the 2B1 in terms of specs, and manages to do so for just over $100 more. Although some might say that the Classmate PC is a better value than the 2B1 given the pricing, the value of the Classmate PC’s superior specs is debatable in the context of computer-driven learning, and the higher cost really adds up when volume is taken into consideration.

Seeing this level of competition in this space is quite refreshing– two companies duking it out to design the better product. I’d like to see both survive, but with each product embodying such a different set of requirements, one should emerged as the favored platform in due time.

Related links:

Cnet- Intel’s bridge for the digital divide