Wednesday, March 14, 2007

RED Campaign: Viva Il Corporatismo!

"But quoted complaints about the RED campaign don't depend at all on which way the RED numbers go. For example, a Cincinnati professor is quoted as worrying that "business is taking on the patina of philanthropy and crowding out philanthropic activity." At the same time he objects that RED "benefits the for-profit partners much more than the charitable causes." I was trying to understand his problem and then it came to me: These guys just don't like corporations poaching on nonprofit turf.

Well now, isn't this a bird of a different feather? Some activists see corporate money muscling in on the world of charitable causes. What's their beef, as it were?"

From an article by John Tepper Marlin, link in the title above.

Well, let me start: Target profiting off of clothes were a penny goes to AIDS projects; the GAP using a couple cents from clothes made in Asia to give to AIDS causes.

I don't believe in corporate responsability in the sense of coalitions of corporations, including those that are in many ways very irresponsable in where they get their products from and how they treat their workeres, financing charitable work.

Corporations should be taxed and the money gotten from the tax redistributed to projects to help people in the third world.

While the RED campaign may help people in the immediate, much more help could be accomplished by this sort of taxation and spending as well as non-profit work, which is not directly tied to corporations in quite the same way as this, although there are serious issues in it as well.

In the long term, having corporations take care of social causes does in fact cause an extension of corporate power in regular life. This is not new.

You've got to dance with them that brung you and if we rely on corporations to solve our social problems they'll eventually own us.

***On edit. Unlike the claims made by the Independent and the article cited above, RED is a marketing campaign. And RED is a marketing gimmick. People aren't going to buy full lines of RED products to wear all the time and use all the time. What's more likely is they'll buy one product and then remember the brand as being socially responsable, therefore increasing the likelihood that they'll buy from them in the future. RED purchases are token purchases; it's not like Apple is saying "I'll donate some profits from every iPod manufactured", instead, it's saying "I'll only donate profits from ugly red iPods that happen to sell, for the small market that's willing to buy a RED iPod for several hundred dollars instead of one that looks better".

It's like a souvenier shirt.

Eventually, RED will fade from view, the money will go down to next to nothing, and the brands will have established some priceless "Street Cred" with whoever their...street...happens to be, like Giorgio Armani buyers, as being socially responsable and being Good Businesses, which they hope will last for a long long time and distinguish them from competitors in that market.

And they will have established a flawed model of corporate giving where the giving isn't a no strings attached thing, or at least no overt strings attached thing, but is instead directly tied to corporations making profit....and then using that profit directly to help people in need, which is corporatist.

But who could object to helping AIDS patients? That's what the PR hypes on time and again. Well, not me, but if you're looking for a way to sustainably help AIDS patients in Africa or elsewhere you need to look to something other than RED to do it, just like you shouldn't look to Bob Geldof and his Africa-as-victim Live 8 concert to really change policy regarding debt in poor countries.

By the way, I'm glad RED has generated $25 million, but it should be noted that the Global Fund, that RED is feeding into, has a yearly budget of $6 Billion dollars and has a current commitment level, meaning people and foundations that have pledged to give, of $10 Billion dollars.

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