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Posts Tagged ‘CSR’

Food for thought as multinationals seek to do good

September 29, 2010 1 comment

Nestlé and P&G announce their plans for the future.

As the nation’s average girth seems to grow ever wider, so the number of articles and features on the issue swells. Just last week, Zeitgeist watched an earnest BBC reporter skulking around childrens playgrounds highlighting how the width of slides and swings have increased by 50% to accommodate larger children.

Campaigners also pressed for ages to be taken off of childrens clothes so that bigger children didn’t develop self-esteem issues after being squashed into clothes intended for children a couple of years older than them.

The Child Growth Foundation state that since the 1970’s, children’s waistlines have expanded by an average of 12.5cm – that’s about 5″!

12.5cm is wider than this column!

Statistics also suggest that the trend is current as the number of obese children has risen by one third in the past decade with more than 30% of children now classed as overweight, while other studies suggest that such an unhealthy start to life sets us up for years of misery.

Just as well then that the foods we eat are going to start being good for us as well as tasty.

This week Nestlé ‘announced the creation of Nestlé Health Science S.A. and the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma’.

Their objective being to ‘develop the innovative area of personalised health science nutrition to prevent and treat health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, which are placing an unsustainable burden on the world’s healthcare systems‘.

The new wholly owned subsiduary will be run at arm’s length from Nestle’s main food, beverages and nutrition activities, arguably to avoid accusations of a conflict of interest and cynicism given their other core products such as confectionery.

Nestlé’s move is part of a trend amongst food and pharmaceutical corporations into high-margin non-prescription health products for both human and animal consumption. The company plans to invest heavily over the next decade to build ‘a world-class Institute of Health Sciences, which will conduct research in biomedical science to translate this knowledge into nutritional strategies to improve health and longevity.

So with all this healthy food helping us to live longer and healthier, it’s reassuring to know that another multinational is taking its responsibilities to the wellness of the planet seriously.

P&G have announced that they have set a number of sustainability goals to be met between now and 2020. These cover a range areas of the business, from innovations through to marketing, and will also involve conducting research to identify ways in which consumers can be encouraged to dispose of waste using environmentally friendly methods.

“What’s important is that we don’t treat environmental sustainability as something separate from our base business,” said Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble’s CEO.

“It does us no good to grow our business today at the expense of tomorrow.”

The list of goals includes replacing 25% of petroleum-based materials with sustainably sourced renewable materials, ensuring 70% of washing machine loads use cold water, a 20% reduction in product packaging per consumer use and taking 30% of their energy from renewable sources.

The multinational also realises the importance of education.

Under its Future Friendly initiative in the US, P&G pledged to reach 50m households, providing information about potentially eco-friendly habits. Developing nations are also on the radar.

“In these markets that are enjoying tremendous growth rates, like in South-East Asia, we need to get way ahead of the sustainability curve and make sure we’re doing the education.” said McDonald.

“We will need to continue collaborating with our suppliers, with consumers, with retailers and in our industry. No one company can have all the answers, but we need to be part of the solution.”

Whereas as few years ago, Corportate Social Responsibility may have been something that large organisations implemented as a token gesture, such moves into pharma-food and public declarations of sustainability targets suggest that it is now becoming a key influence in the direction taken by multinationals. Anticipating the problems and needs of tomorrow today, arguably more efficiently than many governments.

Zeitgeist remembers seeing old TV clips promising that a whole meal would come in tablet form. Turns out the medicine is going to come in food form.

We Have (Green) Ignition

Shell and Renault might not leap to mind as producers of the most ‘green’ products in the market right now. Hence why both companies are trying to alter this perception by touting their so-called ‘green credentials’. In the past week, one brand has come off better than the other in managing these expectations.

Though unquestionably adept when it comes to social media – having in the past month launched their products on the latest incarnation of the Sims game, as well as the ubiquitous Facebook integration – Renault has fallen foul of the ASA twice over a period of five weeks. At the end of March, seventeen people complained that the company’s strapline for their new electric car, that it was a ‘zero-emissions vehicle’, was a fallacy, as it “did not take the full life cycle of the vehicle into account… the ASA adjudicated that if the car was charged using energy sourced from the UK’s national grid, CO2 emissions would be produced as a result.” The article also mentions a new set of codes by Defra meant to combat ‘greenwashing’ tactics. Yesterday, Brand Republic reported the ASA had banned a second Renault advert, when one person complained “it was using French rather than UK figures to make the claim that one of its electric cars reduces CO2 emissions by least 90%.” The ASA concluded the ad was “misleading”.

Where Renault has stumbled, Shell has not, with those wonderful JWT minds producing a simple but visually engaging advertisement that immediately speaks to the relative cleanliness and quality of its fuel.

One luxury brand not usually associated with such serious things like sustainability is Aston Martin. But then neither was BMW before it recently unveiled its prototype electric car (see headline picture). Campaign magazine reported yesterday that the manufacturer “is looking for an agency to handle the launch advertising for its Cygnet city car”. The project is being managed in conjunction with Toyota, based on that company’s iQ car. “a large proportion of Aston Martin drivers also own a smaller car, such as a Mini or smart car, which they use for their inner-city commutes or to do the shopping. Reports suggest that the Cygnet will cost around £30,000 and feature a low-emission economical engine.” It’s an interesting decision. Although one might initially blanche at the idea of Aston Martin producing a more economical car, as the above quotation illustrates, it is in fact very on-brand. In this case, why sell to half of the consumer’s automobile product purchase, when you can sell to it all? The model will, initially, only be available to those that already own an Aston Martin.

Zeitgeist is most pleased to see efforts being taken by the those industries with an environmentally questionable past to prepare for a cleaner future. Moreover, who’d have thunk it, but electric cars can be cool and fast (although UK hybrid and electric sales are unfortunately slipping). It’s clear from Renault’s example though that people won’t tolerate a greenwash. Perhaps the open-source project “c,mm,n“, will help.

Talk Talk to offer over 65’s a Chat Chat

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

In the saturated market of telecoms, brands really do need to work hard to differentiate themselves. Consumers are spoilt for choice, with companies with broadband and TV heritage offering a range of enticing bundles that conceal the costs of individual services.

To stand out, one such package provider, Talk Talk, has launched a novel initiative called ‘We’ll Call You‘ whereby staff volunteer to ring up elderly customers once a week for a five minute chat.

One the face of it, one can be cynical as whether it is just a publicity stunt and there will be plenty of pensioners who will claim that they have a wide circle of friends and no need for such a service.

That said, Talk Talk claim there are over four million over 65’s living alone in the UK and the fragmentation in society suggests that a number of them will appreciate someone to chat to.

Talk Talk are keen to state that the service will never be used to sell a product or service and that their staff are not counsellors, nor are they attempting to take over from social services or charities.

“We’re not trying to replace social services and charities but our research shows that the service we’re providing meets a need which is not currently being met.” confirmed communications director Mark Schmid.

No information was available as to how many over 65’s were Talk Talk customers and the service is initially only available to 50 applicants – around 0.001% of the aforementioned four million – which suggests things would have to be scaled up considerably to make a real difference and deflect accusations of gimmickry.

Quite whether a commercial enterprise should be required to provide such a social service at all is a topic for debate, but in the meantime, if it improves the lives of some of our elderly citizens then it should be welcomed.

Of Mice and Men – Disney & CSR

Asking a former financial controller to riff with Kermit in front of international press might be somewhat irksome, especially if the teleprompter fails. All ended well however, and Disney unveiled it’s recent offer of free tickets to its theme parks for those who committed to a full day of community service. What other companies could convince the public to do something beneficial and worthy in return for an experience of their brand?

Sustainable Luxury

From the July Zeitgeist…

Sustainable Luxury

What is a journey? If you believe that it’s a process, a discovery of one’s self; that life itself is a journey, then you should have thought of putting that into the copy for your campaign before Ogilvy Paris did it for Louis Vuitton.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable with shopping for luxury goods online, as long as the experience remains consistent with that of the retail environment of their favourite boutique, (witness Luisaviaroma.com and Dior). The Vuitton Journeys site goes a step further, completely immersing the user in the experience of living with their brand. Their website chapters for each campaign feature photography from Annie Leibovitz, with music composed especially for the site and video podcasts.

The campaign strategy imagines Journeys as “individual trajectories”. It focuses on those in politics, art and culture who have had their own remarkable journeys; Gorbachev, Francis Coppola, Madonna. The latest  commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with the label “Some Journeys change Mankind forever”.

Founded over 150 years ago by Mr. Vuitton, the first person to put his name – and thus his brand – on his products, it is part of the holding company LVMH. Both it and it’s archrival, PPR (owner of Balenciaga, YSL, Gucci, and many more) have recently pushed their green credentials to the fore while maintaining their aura of exclusive indulgence (Louis Vuitton has never, ever had a sale). Louis Vuitton’s Journeys campaign is in association with the Oscar-winning, Nobel-winning, almost-President Al Gore’s Climate Project. Supporting copy appears at the bottom of all print ads, and 15% of every online purchase from Vuitton goes to the Project. PPR has just launched a film called “Home” to motivate people into changing the way they live their lives. The film features absolutely stunning satellite imagery of Earth; a glimpse of a place in dire need of saving. Find it on YouTube; it will also be screened in cinemas around the world over the next few months.

Both efforts recognise a real desire with their target audiences to create a more sustainable way of living.