Paying Lip Service to Sustainability: Coca-Cola Chief Shows Us How

by Aman Singh Das | February 08, 2010

  • My Vault

Only last week I blogged about Coca-Cola's chief on CNBC.com protesting his claim that he is the company's chief sustainability officer. Here is what I disputed. In an interview with Forbes.com, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said, "I have not appointed another one and never will. That's me." Today, the debut of Stop Killer Coke, a documentary on the ongoing efforts by New York-based group Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, that has been putting pressure on the consumer products giant to take responsibility for the violence taking place at its Colombian bottling plants, is making headlines everywhere.

Coca Cola

So, what is missing here? The crucial element called knowledge. Sustainability is a science as well that can be taught and calling yourself its chief has its dangers. His logic, however inspiring, is in essence, hollow. His logic gives credence to the top-down approach: "It starts at the top, and it is driven and permeates through the entire organization from the top." However, without the technical know-how, the differentiation skills and the ability to permeate through the many, many levels of sustainability in a business, this title for him holds the danger of losing itself into intangibility. It declares the importance of the message but fails to deliver it to every constituent and stakeholder.

A few weeks ago, I discussed the related phenomenon by companies starting to address the need for sustainability to feature in their strategy and "face" by instituting chief sustainability officers. However, in most cases, these eco-officers were not hired externally with a verified background in the field, but named internally as an addition to their existing titles. To say that this defeats the purpose is to highly underestimate the proportional mistake these companies are making. In essence, all they are doing is giving in to PR pressure and merely paying lip service to their stakeholders.

Read the full post here: "Chief Sustainability Officers: Paying Lip Service to Sustainability".

Filed Under: CSR

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