Disaster du Jour: Odwalla’s Haiti Hope Campaign

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program. You can follow along here.

Odwalla Haiti HopeBy Marasie Schumacher

Just over a year has passed since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and we rarely hear about it anymore in the news. Instead we are bombarded with the latest images of the terrible destruction in Japan. How long will this be on our radar and what will be the next “disaster de jour?”  Odwalla’s Haiti Hope Campaign was an attempt by The Coca-Cola Company to raise money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Was this a legitimate attempt at helping a country at a time of need or were their efforts more of an attempt to ride the media bandwagon to sell more juice?  While I do applaud Odwalla’s efforts, is this really the most efficient way to support a cause?

Odwalla created the Mango Lime-Aid juice flavor to help victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  One hundred percent of profits were to be donated to the Haiti Hope Project for 5 years.  The project’s total investment was estimated at $9.5 million, which included donations from partnering organizations. The project affects 25,000 mango farmers by increasing the mango trade in Haiti along with the nonprofit, TechnoServe.  Despite the catchy name, this flavor didn’t sell and was taken off the shelves within one year.  Currently, ten cents from every Odwalla Mango Tango smoothie sold will be donated to Haiti Hope, up to $500,000 for the remaining 4 years.

Using resources from its parent company, Coca-Cola, Odwalla poured money into the marketing of the campaign through television ads, national print and even a display in Times Square.  Odwalla was able to reach a large audience through this campaign, spreading the message for Haiti while also promoting its brand. This begs the question: how much more effective could the company have been if it had donated the money directly to an organization such as the Red Cross instead?

As socially responsible consumers, we want the money we spend on purchasing consumer goods to go to a cause that has the most “bang for our buck.”  We are aware of all the greenwashing that companies use in their advertising and we know how difficult it is to determine if a business is truly values-driven.  So, when looking at a social cause campaign, the key is to look at the sustainable development and long-term potential of a company’s efforts.  In the example of the Odwalla campaign, I wonder what will happen to the Haitian mango farmers after 5 years when Coca-Cola’s aid stops.

While disaster relief is undoubtedly important, it seems that companies could better use their resources to empower communities to develop sustainably on a long-term basis through partnerships with NGOs or by creating their own foundations or even non-profit arms.

Should we look for a Jumping Berry Japan Juice in the near future?  It seems that Coca-Cola learned their lesson with the Odwalla Haiti Hope campaign—this time Coca-Cola decided to create a reconstruction fund and donate cash and products for victims of the 2011 earthquake in Japan.

2 responses

  1. I was glad to see you write about the Haiti earthquake, and I wanted to respond as an employee of The Coca-Cola Company.

    What happened in Haiti, and what happened in Japan, are terrible tragedies. The Haiti Hope Project is one of the ways we are helping keep the situation in Haiti top of mind with consumers, and it is only part of the broader commitment we have to Haiti as the largest private employer. I wanted to share more about our efforts as the work being done on the Haiti Hope Project is not just by The Coca-Cola Company – this is a coalition also comprised of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB); the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); with support from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the Soros Foundation and other international and local actors. The implementing partner is TechnoServe, an NGO that helps entrepreneurial men and women in poor areas of the developing world to build businesses that create income, opportunity and economic growth for their families, their communities and their countries.  

    Within 2-3 hours of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, The Coca-Cola Foundation transferred $1 million to the American Red Cross for immediate disaster relief. We’ve been working with the American Red Cross since 1917 and earlier this year formalized a global partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to enhance our collaboration on disaster preparedness and response around the world. In Japan, we’ve been part of the community for 60 years and are contributing to the rebuilding effort through the Coca-Cola Japan Reconstruction Fund, a $31 million dollar fund we announced March 24 to help rebuild schools and community facilities. Included in our effort is the donation of more than 7 million beverages.

    Just after the earthquake in Haiti, we started supplying more than 1 million liters of water and other beverages by land, air and sea to reach those in urgent need. As you mentioned in your article, we used our marketing assets in 25 U.S. markets to encourage people to donate, and our Latin America Group gave another $1 million to the Mexican Red Cross. And we began work on the Haiti Hope Project to create an initiative focused on long-term sustainable development.

    Haiti Hope focuses on the revitalization of the agricultural sector, which is a high priority for the government. It’s not about giving away money or goods. It’s about helping local farmers improve their skills and conditions for success, and rebuild the community. We began project implementation in September 2010 and have a commitment with the goal to double the income of 25,000 Haitian mango farmers over five years to help raise their standard of living. The Haiti Hope Odwalla Mango Tango smoothie we announced in January is a way consumers can join in our broader efforts to rebuild Haiti.

    We are the largest employer in Haiti. We knew that bringing our operations back to normal in Haiti was critical because many people depend on our business for their livelihood – our employees, local warehouses, mom and pop stores and street vendors.
    As part of our commitment to Haiti’s economic prosperity, we are investing $16MM on the business during 2010-2011 (including a waste water treatment plant).

    Like anything in a challenging environment, the Haiti Hope project has risks and obstacles and we are not even a year into this initiative. But, we are making progress and we are proud of the work we are doing in close collaboration with others. We are also proud that we are using our business to create sustainable economic growth in Haiti, in addition to the help we’ve provided to the Red Cross.

    We believe partnership is key to making a lasting, positive difference. All of us need to work together and use our strengths to rebuild these communities. The bigger risk for Haiti and for the world is if we sit around and do nothing.

    To learn what we are doing with partners in Haiti and other communities around the world we’ve posted a video at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/presscenter/wef_partnership_video.html. And, I welcome the opportunity to connect and discuss further if you want to connect with me on twitter @CocaColaCo.

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