Murky Motivations for Corporate Responsibility

Murky Motivations for Corporate Responsibility

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By Daniella Gold ’14


When I first learned about a Coca-Cola bottle made entirely out of water, my immediate reaction was excitement about this environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional packaging. But after reading further, I couldn’t help but agree with some of the criticism. Approximately 1 billion people struggle to have access to clean water, and here is Coke wasting a scarce resource. Furthermore, the extra energy needed to keep the bottles frozen during distribution might all-but negate the environmental impact.  So I was forced to ask myself: Is this a greener packaging innovation or a publicity stunt?

The answer lies in knowing who created the initiative. Was it formulated within Coca-Cola’s Global Environmental Department? Or was it Coke’s advertising team, looking for a new campaign or a cheap answer to environmentalists calling for less plastic pollution?

While sustainability (environmental, social and economic) is a key feature for many consumers, what motivates companies to change?  Is it Robert Eccles’s, Ioannis Ioannou’s, and George Serafeim’s research showing that companies that invest in sustainability reap financial benefits?  Or is it a direct reaction to consumer needs?  When Hellmann’s Mayonnaise decided to use only cage-free eggs in their products, was the company reacting to consumer desire, were they looking for higher investment returns, or both?  Who drives change: the consumers, the employees or the company leadership?

At this year’s conference, join us as we discuss how companies overcome barriers to social change in order to meet the expectations of a broad range of stakeholders. With representatives from Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Coca-Cola and Cornerstone Capital, we will discuss how stakeholders are pitching more sustainable practices and translating these ideas into concrete action.

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