14 Apr 2022


Not All Companies Are Viewed As Equal

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According to the traditional understanding of the corporation, they are in existence primarily to make a profit. Based on the above money-centered view, and considering moral dilemmas that are bound to arise, business ethics come into play. Questions that need to be addressed include, how do corporations handle conflicts of interest? How much advertising is necessary, if at all (Garriga & Melé, 2004)? Such questions are even more critical when the goods or services a corporation offers have certain publicly acknowledged adverse effects on populations or the environment. Take, for instance, the implication of sugary beverages for the global obesity crisis. The major soda manufacturers counteract this with elaborate and costly ad and corporate social responsibility campaigns (CSR) (Dorfman, Cheyne, Friedman, Wadud, & Gottlieb, 2012). The public needs protection from such onslaughts, either through regulatory frameworks or awareness drives.

Effect of Soda Consumption on Public Health

There is increasing concern about rising obesity rates in society. Furthermore, obesity in the fifth leading mortality risk globally, while childhood obesity is considered as one the most grave public health concerns of the 21st Century (Vartanian, Schwartz, & Brownell, 2007).The proliferation of western diets through popular media to a global audience could also worsen cases of preventable cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. In the United States, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption doubled the caloric intake of children between 1977 and 2004. In addition, it is estimated that soda consumption contributed to up to a fifth of the U. S. population weight gain between 1977 and 2007 (Dorfman et al., 2012). Soft drink consumption is also associated with higher carbohydrate intake, lower dietary fiber and fruit consumption, and lower intake of essential macronutrients (Vartanian et al., 2007) with varied implications for nutrition and health.

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Counteractive Campaigns by Multinationals

In the wake of revelations regarding potential adverse effects of soft-drink consumption on health and nutrition, the main soda manufacturers have mounted serious campaigns, both in the form of paid advertising and multinational CSR activities. These campaigns are comparable to those earlier mounted by the tobacco industry, which seek to divert responsibility on the consumer as opposed to the multinationals. Such drives also prevent regulation while ultimately increasing product popularity through visibility and sensational advertisements. They further target young people, who are receptive, and form the largest bloc of potential consumers, to sustain sales.

While Coca-Cola and Pepsi have put forward the Pepsi Refresh Project and Live Positively campaigns, respectively, both costing tens of millions of dollars, what they stand to gain from such initiatives pale in comparison to what is on offer for the customers. Through innovative social media tools, Pepsi supports community causes nominated by the public, while Coca-Cola provides healthy lifestyle advice. These campaigns run in the wake of increasing pressure from consumers and public health advocates about rising obesity rates, and mulling over passing of strong legislative measures or taxes. The campaigns, as glossy and well-meaning as they may seem, only seek to sustain profits. They also double up as marketing products that increase their visibility in communities, in turn increasing sales and bolstering brand image.

It is possible for a business to cater for the consumers’ and its interests simultaneously. However, this becomes difficult for large multinationals with huge profits and financial and political influence. In such a case, it is necessary for government entities or public officials to intervene on behalf of an unassuming populace. Public health professionals recognize the adverse effects of soda consumption. The public, particularly young consumers have no reliable or sustained sources of information on potentially harmful effects of soda consumption on their health, nutrition, and lifestyles. There is no incentive for multinationals to engage in social projects if these do not guarantee a financial return. Public health advocates could counter the CSR activities of the soda industry with sustained campaigns to educate the public and policymakers. Public health advocates could overturn the sentiment that everything is normal and okay.


Dorfman, L., Cheyne, A., Friedman, L. C., Wadud, A., & Gottlieb, M. (2012). Soda and tobacco industry corporate social responsibility campaigns: how do they compare? PLoS Medicine, 9 (6), e1001241. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001241

Garriga, E., & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate social responsibility theories: mapping the territory. Journal of Business Ethics, 53 (1), 51-71. doi:10.1023/b:busi.0000039399.90587.34

Vartanian, L. R., Schwartz, M. B., & Brownell, K. D. (2007). Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 97 (4), 667-675. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2005.083782

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Not All Companies Are Viewed As Equal.


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