P&G: Giving Philanthropy a Brand. And Saving Lives.

PUR P&G CongoPhoto Source: Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program

P&G manages brands. A lot of them. In fact, you probably used one of their products before leaving for work (or whatever it is you do) today.  Over 300 brands – from Duracell, Tide, Pampers, Charmin, Crest, to even Pringles – fall under the P&G banner. Now the company is successfully branding one more product: philanthropy.

Globally, more than 4,000 children die every day from diarrheal disease – more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined – simply because they lack access to clean, healthy water. P&G wants to change that fact.

Through its not-for-profit Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, the company has set an aggressive goal: provide 3.5 billion liters of clean drinking water in more than 50 countries by the year 2012. Since starting the program in 2007, they are already halfway there.

How is this accomplished? Through an innovative PUR-branded packet of magic. P&G worked with the Center for Disease Control to create a small packet of powder that removes disease and suspended particles from water. It’s really impressive to see in action.

In fact, when I attempted to contact Dr. Greg Allgood, P&G’s official spokesperson for the CSDW program, he had to defer me to one of his colleagues. He was in the middle of a commute to DR Congo – his 5th stop on a 3 week trip through Africa. Now that’s walking the talk! He also keeps a blog of his travels.

Through partnerships with over 70 organizations – including UNICEF, Oxfam, and PSI – P&G has developed a global humanitarian supply chain reaching the most rural villages in Haiti, Sudan, Bangladesh, Iraq, and other nations. Keith Zook from P&G’s Corporate Sustainable Development Division, estimates this program has saved the lives of over 8,300 children.

Aside from all this “feel good” stuff, what is the true “business case” for these efforts? After all, P&G has shareholders, right?

While it would be easy to say something like, “No water, no business…” to explain these efforts, P&G has a much more systematic approach to branding its philanthropy and sustainability efforts.

Five years ago, P&G took a look at all of its philanthropic efforts worldwide and decided they needed to make a change. While planting trees in Thailand and educating children in China were great causes, they had no central focus. No audacious goals. No tagline. No brand.

P&G’s solution, “Live, Learn, and Thrive” (1) became the trademarked motto of P&G’s global philanthropy and sustainability efforts. In short, the program focuses on “a single cause: improving life for children in need ages 0-13”.

With this philosophy in mind, P&G has linked philanthropic efforts to specific products, an approach called “cause marketing”. For example, women who buy Always products are contributing to P&G’s Protecting Futures campaign in Africa which is designed “to address a significant contributing factor to girls dropping out or underperforming in school: many are forced to miss up to a week of school every time they get their periods.”

While Mr. Zook admits P&G cannot calculate a ROI or direct sales increase associated with these initiatives, there are certainly business benefits. P&G is learning about new cultures, the consumer habits within them, and it is building a global brand awareness. “Remember that that company that brought you clean drinking water with the PUR logo on the side of the packet?”

In addition, P&G is building great relationships which will all be instrumental to the company’s future global expansion. From developing a supply chain through NGO partnerships to funding from the Clinton Global Initiative, this is smart business.

Want to do more? A $7.50 donation = 1 year of clean drinking water for 1 person using PUR packets. Just go to this link and click “donate” to get involved. I just did. Comment below to encourage others to do the same.

Matthew Holtry is a full-time Consultant for PRIZIM Inc. and a seasonal Journalist for Triple Pundit. His previous experience includes greenhouse gas & energy consulting, eco-business journalism, and various IT roles. He recently received his MBA from Penn State University, where he also served as the President of Penn State Net Impact. He was a former AmeriCorps Team Leader with Outward Bound, has driven cross-country twice, visited 19 countries, and now resides in Washington, DC.

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