Headline August 31, 2016/ ''' *COMPANIES & SOCIETIES* '''


IF YOU ALL WANT TO KNOW  what effect the World Students Society is likely to have  on the Pakistani society and this nation, in the times ahead, just exercise your imagination.

And if you all want to know  -what elections and coffee have in common, just go and ask Master *Starbucks*.

In May, the  US giant ran in campaign in the Philippines called   *care to vote*, which rewarded customers with a  free drink  if they turned out to vote in the country's general election.

Having visited a  polling station, all customers had to do was show an ink-stained voting finger to a barista in order to get their complimentary coffee or other beverage: ''Our intent was simple,'' says Keith Cole, head of marketing for Starbucks Philippines.

''By helping to increase vote participation we believe more people will have an opportunity to make their votes count.''

From campaigning on voting rights, in sustainability, healthy eating, and gender equality, businesses are speaking out about social issues, in the hope of  influencing and improving   -our behaviour. The aim, they say, is to use their power and influence for good, and not just for profit.

But with corporate scandals never far from the news, can we seriously take their word for it?
Real beauty? 

The idea that brands might encourage us to be better citizens is not new. UK chocolate manufacturer Cadbury and  US  carmaker Ford invested heavily in the towns where their employees lived in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and in return- expected workers to uphold certain values, both in and outside work.

But today such efforts tend to be more consumer facing, the aim being to promote social good while encouraging brand loyalty. Take the Dove campaign for  Real Beauty , which has been calling for a wider definition of female beauty since 2004.

Run by  Anglo-Dutch  consumer goods giant  Unilever, the owner of toiletries brand  Dove, it aims to celebrate women. Unilever says the scheme has  ''pioneered the use of attainable images of beauty''  in advertising.

At the same time, Unilever saw annual sales of Dove products reportedly increase from $2,5 billion to $4.0 billion in 2014.  

Responsible Drinking then?  Another example is Dutch brewer Heineken, which has promoted moderate drinking in its advertising since 2011. 

Heineken PR manager Milly Hutchinson says that the firm believes it has *a role to play in the society*, and the  *perfect platform to spread the message of moderate consumption''.

However, she adds that the firm is also reflecting a  ''discernible shift in consumer behaviour'', as its own research shows that a majority young adults now limit the amount of alcohol they drink.

A Heineken survey published in January found that 75% of drinkers aged between 21 and 35 limited the amount of alcohol they drank on the majority of their nights out. The study was conducted across five countries  -the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Mexico and Brazil.   

Charlotte West, from UK charity Business in the Community   -which encourages businesses to make a positive difference to society or their local community  -says it is true that a growing number of of firms are making their campaigning voices heard.

She says that the trend has been partly driven by the rise of social media, which has empowered consumers to hold brands to account in an unprecedented way. And so firms are having to respond.

''More and more, customers want businesses to stand for social impact, and in our changing world they have to play a bigger role in solving societal problems,'' she adds.

However, Laura Spence, professor of business ethics at Royal Holloway, University of London, cautions that  ''there is bound to be some enlightened self-interest in these campaigns''. She adds : 

Companies can see that being associated with certain practice reflects well on them, and might bring in additional customers. ''But they can risk seeming preachy too,  which doesn't always play well.''

Well, Voting Rights then?.... But what of the growing trend for businesses to get involved in campaigns with less obvious corporate benefits?

Examples include Apple chief Tim Cook's campaigning on gay rights in the US, or Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who advocates gender equality.

Ice cream maker  Ben & Jerry's  [which is also owned by Unilever] even launched a new flavour in May called Empowerment   [peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirls] as part of its  ''democracy is in your hands''   campaign for increased voting rights in the US.

Among other things,  Vermont-based  Ben & Jerry's wants to see an end to voters having to produce  ID cards  when they go to vote in numerous US states, saying this disadvantages people from the black community, as they are less likely to have the required identifications .     

Can companies then make us better citizens? I leave that judgment to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world.

With respectful dedication to all the peoples of the planet. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and !E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Running Out Of Bullets ''' 

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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