Soda companies' PR campaigns are bad for health: experts

June 19, 2012

Health advocates need to organize strong public health campaigns to educate the public and policymakers about the dangers of both sugary beverages and the misleading industry corporate social responsibility campaigns that distract from their products' health risks, according to US experts writing in this week's PLoS Medicine.

In a Policy Forum article, the authors (media and public health experts from the Berkeley and Boston, USA) examined prominent campaigns from industry leaders PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, that, according to the authors, have embraced (CSR) with elaborate, expensive, and multinational campaigns.

The authors say that while soda companies may not face the level of social stigmatization or regulatory pressure that now confronts Big Tobacco, concern over soda and the is growing. In response to health concerns about their products, the authors argue that soda companies have launched comprehensive CSR initiatives sooner than did but that these campaigns echo the tobacco industry's use of CSR as a means to focus responsibility on consumers rather than the corporation, bolster the companies' and products' popularity, and to prevent regulation.

However, unlike tobacco CSR campaigns, soda company CSR campaigns explicitly target young people and aim to increase sales.

The authors say: "It is clear that the soda CSR campaigns reinforce the idea that obesity is caused by customers' "bad" behavior, diverting attention from soda's contribution to rising ."

They continue: "For example, CSR campaigns that include the construction and upgrading of parks for youth who are at risk for diet-related illnesses keep the focus on physical activity, rather than on unhealthful foods and drinks. Such tactics redirect the responsibility for health outcomes from corporations onto its consumers, and externalize the negative effects of increased obesity to the public."

The authors argue: "Emerging science on the addictiveness of sugar, especially when combined with the known addictive properties of caffeine found in many sugary beverages, should further heighten awareness of the product's public health threat similar to the understanding about the addictiveness of tobacco products."

They conclude: "Public health advocates must continue to monitor the CSR activities of soda companies, and remind the public and policymakers that, similar to Big Tobacco, soda industry CSR aims to position the companies, and their products, as socially acceptable rather than contributing to a social ill."

Explore further: Cigarette firms slowing anti-tobacco fight: report

More information: Dorfman L, Cheyne A, Friedman LC, Wadud A, Gottlieb M (2012) Soda and Tobacco Industry Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns: How Do They Compare? PLoS Med 9(6): e1001241. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001241

Related Stories

Cigarette firms slowing anti-tobacco fight: report

March 20, 2012
Alleged "interference" by cigarette firms in public health policies is slowing down a UN-backed global campaign against tobacco use and its related health risks, a report said Tuesday.

When will a message of social responsibility backfire?

July 14, 2011
Consumers don't react positively to all messages of corporate social responsibility, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. The message needs to line up with consumers' mindsets and understanding of ...

Tobacco companies use corporate social responsibility for political purposes

August 23, 2011
Corporations may use corporate social responsibility programmes not only to improve their public image, but also to gain access to politicians, influence agendas, and shape public health policy to best suit their own interests. ...

Anti-tobacco TV ads help adults stop smoking, study finds

April 19, 2012
Anti-tobacco television advertising helps reduce adult smoking, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy -- but some ads may be more effective ...

Half of Americans drink daily soda, sweet beverage

September 1, 2011
Half of Americans drink a soda or sugary beverage each day - and some are downing a lot.

Recommended for you

Moderate coffee drinking 'more likely to benefit health than to harm it', say experts

November 22, 2017
Drinking coffee is "more likely to benefit health than to harm it" for a range of health outcomes, say researchers in The BMJ today.

Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses

November 22, 2017
Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses, but spirits are most frequently associated with feelings of aggression, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.