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Cola-Cola Goes White to Help Protect Polar Bears’ Arctic Home

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 27th, 2011 | 2 Comments
photo courtesy Coca-Cola

photo courtesy Coca-Cola

For almost 90 years the polar bear has been a hardy Coca-Cola symbol. What started as a print advertising campaign in France made its way across the pond and became an advertising mainstay. By the 1990s, teams of computer programmers and graphic designers worked weeks to create that familiar commercial of polar bears gazing at the aurora borealis while drinking of bottles of Coke. Meanwhile the threat to real polar bears has become more serious. Coca-Cola and WWF are responding in kind.

Companies seldom abandon an icon that successfully promotes their brand, but starting on November 1st, those familiar red cans of Coca-Cola will start fading away. Replacing them will be more than 1.4 billion white cans of Coke that the company and WWF say will raise more awareness and cash in the effort to protect the polar bears’ habitat.

This is the first time Coca-Cola has ever changed the color of its red can. The company will also roll out white bottle caps that seal bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, and other branded beverages in the Coca-Cola family.

Furthermore, Coca-Cola has made a donation of US$2 million to WWF and is asking its customers to join the fundraising effort. Mobile phone customers can text a code on the package (to the number 357357) and add $1 to the WWF and Coca-Cola cause. An option to donate online is available at ArcticHome.com as well. If this cause marketing campaign catches on, Coca-Cola promises to donate an additional $1 million by mid-March 2012.

That money will go to various projects on which WWF is working to ensure the long term survival of polar bears. Initiatives include protecting denning space and movement corridors; local community projects to reduce human-wildlife conflict; and halting illegal practices like poaching and illegal trade. More difficult tasks include lobbying governments and industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or halting threats from Arctic energy exploration and the holy grail for Canada and Russia: trans-Arctic shipping.

The polar campaign is another joint effort between Coca-Cola that has seen them work together from sustainable sugar in Brazil to water stewardship in China. Cooperation between companies and non-profits will accelerate in the coming years as resources become more expensive and climate volatility intensifies. Will it work? The production, sipping, and consumption of 1.4 billion cans of beverages will have their own impact, and it remains to be seen how consumers react and question what other habits they can  change to mitigate their overall effect on the planet and people.

Coca-Cola has already done a lot to ensure the campaign succeeds, including mobile carriers to lower the minimum donation to $1 when $10 is standard. Here’s a challenge: commit to running some ads related to this campaign and therefore reach a big audience on February 5, Super Bowl Sunday. Because it’s not just about donating–educating all of us can help solve this problem, too.

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Leon Kaye is a consultant, writer, and editor of GreenGoPost.com and also contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.  He lives in Silicon Valley.


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  • Jason Smith

    Is that a type or did Coke really only donate $2?

    • http://greengopost.com/working-with-ggp/leon-kaye/ Leon Kaye

      They only donated $2, but 90% was donated by the CEO himself.

      Thank you for the eagle eyes! I was mortified by the omission and it has since been corrected. I’m surprised the WWF and Coca-Cola’s PR people didn’t get on me sooner! :O