This is now an entire genre of ethics stories, involving a charity facing criticism for aligning itself with a corporate sponsor whose values seem inconsistent with its own.
Here’s the story, by Carly Weeks, for the Globe and Mail: UNICEF sold out by making deal with Cadbury, medical journal says
One of the world’s most influential medical journals is accusing UNICEF Canada of selling out its values by allowing candy giant Cadbury to use its logo to sell Halloween candy.
In an editorial published online Saturday, the Lancet slammed UNICEF Canada for accepting $500,000 from Cadbury Adams Canada Inc. over a three-year period for construction of schools in Africa in exchange for allowing the company to plaster the iconic – and valuable – UNICEF logo on millions of product packages a year….
Just a few thoughts:
1) It seems to me that the worry expressed in the editorial is really that UNICEF is promoting candy, and candy is unhealthy. I’m no marketing expert, but I strongly suspect that if UNICEF’s tacit endorsement does anything at all, it won’t be to boost anyone’s consumption of candy. Rather, it will be to increase sales of Cabury’s candy relative to other brands.
2) Candy isn’t evil. Eating too much candy, too often, is bad for you. But candy is fun. While obesity trends are not irrelevant, here, I’m not sure we need to demonize candy to such an extent that all association with it is considered toxic.
3) It’s worth thinking carefully about the mutual benefits that come from the UNICEF/Cadbury deal. As the G&M story points out,
“the relationship is…lucrative for corporate sponsors because many consumers look favourably on companies that are aligned with good causes, which can help drive sales.”
But why do consumers look favourably on companies that align themselves with good causes? To spell it out plainly, consumers do so because they think that it is a good thing for companies to contribute socially. So it’s not like there’s any trickery here. If consumers think Cadbury is doing something good, Cadbury will be rewarded.
4) Finally, is it worth it for UNICEF? I’m generally hesitant to hand out advice beyond my expertise. I’m not an experienced fund-raiser. So, far be it from me to tell the experts at UNICEF that the decision to align with a candy company is short-sighted. But it does seem plain to me that a charity only has one real asset: it’s brand, and the trust people place in it. In comparison, a carmaker can lose public trust and then regain it by proving that they really do make a great product. Charities make no product; all the public can judge is behaviour.