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    Reg Olives

    I would caution against putting too much stock in the CSR intentions of large corporations like Coca-Cola as being a ‘coke screen’ to choke off regulatory intervention although I certainly agree it is a mechanism to enhance brand reputation and sales.

    I understand that CSR works on a number of levels, including but not limited to:

    1) Gives employees a feel-good belief that they are working for an organisation that shares with them a social consciousness, perhaps counterbalancing feeling they are working for an organisation that really doesn’t practice what it preaches.

    2) Used as part of a broader business governance strategy to educate employees in behaviours to reduce (or preferably remove) the likelihood of employees engaging in unethical behaviour (signing up to the UN Global Compact is an example of basic standards). This is organisational self-protection against being sanctioned.

    3) Convenient catch-all to capture under one term various activities that often make good business sense (like developing local employee or supplier capabilities) but can be used in marketing the credentials of the organisation to both its internal and external audience. Granted some activities captured under CSR are bizarre and suggest a broadening of the concept to make up for a lack of ‘traditional’ CSR activities. However ‘CSR’ is a nice little self-contained and easily understood concept so it keeps several perhaps unrelated activities unified under one banner.

    In regards to the third point, I can see in the research you linked to on the tobacco company BAT in the UK that CSR was a good excuse to get in front of policy makers. The only rational reason to do this is to influence policy, of course. However, there is also the irrational reason to inflate the egos of organisational operatives who probably enjoy being seen to be circulating in supposedly influential circles (I do think we need to recognise this being more of a motivation). It is also bemusing to the point of demonstrating collective cognitive dissonance that CSR awards can be given to organisations like BAT who, fundamentally, sell bad things as the research report points out.

    I think through we need to separate the CSR motivations (as dubious as they may be, or not) and the use of organisations with logistics/supply chain expertise to distribute aid. To an extent, although it is difficult, we perhaps also need to separate the product(s) these organisations with expertise flog off as well. The Coke product does taste nice (yummy sugar), is safe to drink (as in no bugs) and can offer the intangible benefit of making one look a little bit sophisticated in front of peers. But yes, it also can contribute to poor health outcomes compared to local or alternative products.

    If there is a middle ground in this, then perhaps the Foreign Minister can consider engaging Coca-Cola supply chain experts as consultants to improve the Department’s own capabilities?

    In closing, we still need to make sure we have policies and reporting processes in place for transparency of interactions between companies (and other organisation types), policymakers and politicians, whether they are premised on CSR or anything else. Your colleague’s call to find out who approach who is spot on. Alas, I am not confident in this country that we have the transparency we would like so it’s something your article is prompting me to have a look into, thank you.

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    jon smith

    Julie Bishop is not telling the truth when she says that Coca Cola delivers essential medicines. In Tanzania, where the “Project Last Mile” ran, Coke only shared supply chain expertise with the government supply department. They ddidn’t actually deliver any meds themselves. This is spin – corporates like Coke are not getting into the business of delivering of medicines.

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    Rosemary Stanton

    This is appalling. Cola drinks are worse than simply having no nutritional value – they have negative effects. Dental health is one area where all cola drinks (whether sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners) are a disaster. Their acidity damages tooth enamel. I do not think ‘every hilltop and every remote village’ has a dentist!

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