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.

1 comment

  1. I have mixed feelings about this as well. It is great that socially responsible products have market appeal. Whether it’s fair trade coffee or a RED iPod, the bottom line is that more and more people are becoming aware of social issues around the world and are willing to pay for products that attempt to solve them.
    I agree that there should be more transparency about how much of the purchase goes towards the charity and what those funds are seeking to accomplish.
    The socially responsible business model is definitely not broken. It just needs to be refined…

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