Coca-Cola Manual distribution/Flickr
In highly competitive, increasingly commoditised markets, in which consumers have become more sceptical, powerful - and caring - one of the new battlegrounds is CSR, or corporate social responsibility. CSR has become common practice by multinationals, so, for initiatives to stand out as something more than corporate flagwaving, they need some heart.
Some companies are developing a more convincing social conscience through listening to people who really care. By keeping an ear to social networks, brands can harness the passion and ideas of people outside the usual corporate box. They can access innovative, fresh thinking and help consumers rally behind a genuine cause.
When blogger Simon Berry pursued his ingenious idea of leveraging Coca-Cola's huge global distribution network to improve healthcare in developing countries, the company took note. Berry was struck by the preposterousness of the fact that people without access to basic medicine could easily get hold of a can of Coke. For many years, he lacked the tools to realise his vision for a new medical distribution model, then he spotted the potential to organise support through social networks. He created a Facebook group, which grew organically and currently has 4,473 members and counting.
As the ColaLife campaign gained traction, garnering the support of the BBC, Coca-Cola's Global Director of Stakeholder Relations, Salvatore Gabola, invited Berry to their European headquarters to discuss his idea (see Simon's blog or WorldChanging).
On 6 May, a Business Call to Action event, supported by the British government and the UN, highlighted inspirational development initiatives by big companies, including Coca-Cola, Citi Group, Diageo, Microsoft, Reuters, Simitomo and Vodafone. A major UN meeting, scheduled for 25 September, will encourage further commitment from governments, businesses and the private sector to reducing poverty in developing countries.
To support the ColaLife initiative, which would distribute rehydration salts to poor people via Coca-Cola's network, refer to the the ColaLife blog, sign up to the Facebook or Google Group, follow the action on Delicious or Twitter, or post relevant images to the flickr group.