How Would You Feel About Profiting from War?

camelbak.jpgNow here’s something interesting to think about over the new year: What to do when your company is offered a lot of money to sell to the US Military in the middle of a highly controversial war. It’s not an easy question, and I for one, see valid arguments both for and against entering into a military contract. Some people are rightly disgusted by the idea, and others see it as a normal business transaction that will keep troops well equiped and less likely to get injured.
Some companies are caught in the middle due not only to their own principals but also due to the constituency of their customers. Outdoor equipment companies, for example, sell a lot of products to the so called “LOHAS” market – folks who enjoy things like camping and outdoor recreation, and are, generally speaking, outspoken against war in general and the situation in Iraq in particular. Those same companies, in many cases, happen to make prodects that are very useful to soldiers such as excellent boots, hydration systems, sunglasses, and backpacks. Hence the dilemma.
Brands such as Oakley, The North Face, Camelbak and Arc’Tryx are among them, as reported on the Get Outdoors blog and in USA Today.
Although some see a bit of irony in this, I would be surprised to see mass outcry against, say, Camelbak. For one thing, supplying troops with something that’s going to help them survive is hard to see as immoral. It’s not like they’re manufacturing land mines. The other side of the coin is, of course, the idea that dependance on military contracts encourages companies to actually see a profit motive in continuing warefare – and that’s a problem. What do you think?

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

2 responses

  1. As both a soldier who served in Afghanistan and a certified tree hugger this is an interesting topic. Although for me it’s a moot point because while in Afghanistan I personally handed out 10000s of awareness posters (landmine, safety and health, educational, etc.), provided supplies to numerous schools, helped coordinate the drilling of water wells in numerous villages, participated in weekly med caps (military medics treating villagers), and witnessed the country’s first democratic presidential election.
    But unfortunately most tree huggers fall victim to anti war media propaganda.
    I appreciated having a camelbak in Afghanistan. Just like numerous villages now appreciate having a well.
    Yet, Haliburton was the largest contractor in Afghanistan.
    There is definitely a profit motive when it comes to war. The trick is to look at the ends when evaluating the means. The US govt produces millions of mine awareness posters that are distributed to Afghan kids. Why? Because they are altruistic or because it’s good PR? Who cares! Less kids are blown up and that’s all that really matters.

  2. Special forces types have for many years had top-notch outdoors gear they either personally requistioned or issued to them as one of the perqs of doing a demanding job under tough conditions. It comes as no surprise that specialty manufactures would formalize that relationship. If you’re operating at 12,00 ft in winter-like conditions you get your camping gear from K-mart.

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