Posted by: hepowers | December 18, 2009

Polar Bears & Coke & WWF

(image from Coca-Cola's website)

I was surprised last night to see a tv commercial by Coca-Cola, asking viewers to help them save polar bears.  I remember Coca-Cola being criticized several years back for exploiting the polar bear image for commercial gain so I decided to look into this new campaign to see who benefits.

Coca-Cola has teamed up with the World Wildlife Federation (Canada) to create funds for WWF’s polar bear conservation programs which are described on Coca-Cola’s website as:

  • “Working with governments, industry and local communities to implement a range-wide Polar Bear Conservation Action Plan.
  • Reducing climate change, working towards truly sustainable development, and protecting critical habitats, including key feeding and denning areas.
  • Addressing threats to polar bears such as climate change, shipping and offshore drilling for oil and toxic chemicals in the food chain.”

There are three ways that Coke will contribute funds:

  • after customers buy certain Coca-Cola products, the PIN number can be entered on the website.  This initiates donations from Coke to a maximum of $100,000.00 if 1,400,000 PIN’s are entered between October 31/09 and January 4/10
  • Coca-Cola will match individual donations to WWF between these same dates, to a maximum of $75,000.00
  • Coca-Cola will make a $15 donation for each e-gift redemption (involves PIN’s and the accumulation of  iCoke coins) to a maximum of $25,000.00 between the dates above.

Altogether, that is a possible total of $200,000.00 donated from Coca-Cola to the World Wildlife Federation. But the total depends on how many customers buy PIN numbers, make donations and redeem product points.  Hmmmm.  So, here I’ll put on my cynic hat and say, ‘How much profit does Coca-Cola make each year?’ and ‘How much could they really donate to the WWF just outright, with no strings attached to their customers wallets?’  Here is a statement from a news release about their First Quarter 2009 Results:

“Consumers around the world love and trust our brands and turn to us to provide simple moments of refreshment nearly 1.6 billion times every day. And every week, our system reaches 20 million customers around the world with innovative, category-leading brands and services that deliver at the point-of-sale. There really is no better consumer business to be in today…or tomorrow.” “Further, our business has historically generated significant cash flow in all economic conditions, enabling us to invest in key brands and geographies, and consistently return value to our shareowners. This is clearly reflected by our 47th consecutive annual dividend increase and the continued investment behind our growing stable of billion dollar brands.”  These statements are from Muhtar Kent, president and chief executive officer, The Coca-Cola Company.

I do not want to sound too cynical because any socially responsible initiative is better than none.  Involving their customers may have the spin-off effect of raising awareness  and committment to climate change issues.  But selling 1.6 billion products a day?  Goodness, couldn’t they afford to raise their donation limits a bit?

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Responses

  1. I agree. This is a marketing ploy to make it seem like CC is doing something when really they just want to sell more coke. It would be easier to just say so much from every can sold goes to …. This is like companies who offer rebates knowing that the majority of their customers won’t follow through with applying for the rebate.

    While I think the polar bear campaign is an admirable cause, coke should be focused on fighting childhood obesity and diabetes.

    Their pop products have no nutritional value.

    • Well, today I found a press release from CC explaining they are changing their vending machines and coolers to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons by 2015. “The transition to HFC-free refrigeration will reduce the equipment’s direct greenhouse gas emissions by 99 percent.” So the cooling of those 1.6 billion products sold each day will then reduce their impact on global warming for the polar bears. Here’s a link if you want to read the release: http://tinyurl.com/y8rvdcx

  2. Helen: I’ve popped in and out of your blog a few times but I haven’t had much time to read it too closely.
    One of the things I like about your blog is the consistent theme and that you do research before you put your thoughts down. In other words, you just don’t write anything that pops into your head.
    Also, your blog shows your own social conscience and I think your posts will end up promoting good social causes.
    Keep at it.

    • Thanks Mark for such positive feedback! I enjoy learning about initiatives while I do my research and hope that the information I present may inspire or assist others to do their own initiatives within their communities.

  3. More corporate bs by Coke. I hope people don’t take them seriously.

  4. What a joke Coca Cola is, making the consumer do the work by entering a PIN number? how about this CC? Why not just donate money without being asked, or asking someone else to help you? How about making sure your delivery trucks and factories are low emission?

  5. I just saw that Coke commercial that says they’re going to donate $2,000,000 over the next two years to save polar bears. $2,000,000?! That’s chump change for a company that size. There are houses around here that sell for substantially more than that. Stupid marketing ploy, especially the colour change on the cans.

  6. Thanks for your comments Angela. A few days ago, my local paper featured a story about the Canadian federal government paying a consultant to put a financial value to polar bears. They decided the number was $6.3 billion or $400,000 for each of the 15,000 bears in Canada.

    This accounted for the bear’s cultural and symbolic worth as well as it’s value for tourism and hunting. The consultants also determined that Canadians would contribute as much as the price of an iPad to preserve the bears.

    Apple’s website this morning lists the iPad2 at $519. So Coca Cola’s contribution is about 4,000 iPads by comparison. This contribution is a much bigger number than when I wrote this blog post two years ago and let’s hope it continues to grow since the need is significant.


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