Companies that largely promote and sell unhealthy foods (and, more importantly, spend millions lobbying against public health) often also engage in philanthropic acts.
In this article, Darren Powell — Health and Physical Education professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand — explains how and why the fast food industry is reinventing itself as “healthy and caring.”
- “In order for the food and beverage industries to be seen to be providing “solutions” to obesity, corporate philanthropy has been employed as a key strategy.”
- ” Corporate philanthropy is an umbrella term to describe a range of practices whereby corporations “give” money, personnel, equipment and support to other organizations. This is a form of corporate giving that has been described as “strategic philanthropy”; a type of “philanthro-capitalism” that is intimately tied to the business interests of the corporation.”
- “Corporate philanthropy is, therefore, not simply altruism by another name. It is part of a business strategy to look after the financial interests of shareholders, penetrate and retain markets, and improve the bottom line.”
- Educational programs and resources are a key target of corporate philanthropy, particularly those that claim to promote healthy lifestyles. For instance, the “Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Program” has been implemented in 73 countries, including the “Nestlé Healthy Active Kids Program” in Australia and “Be Healthy, Be Active” in New Zealand.
- In the US, the PepsiCo Foundation partnered with Save the Children to implement its “Healthy Lifestyles” program, while the General Mills Foundation helped advertise the “Presidential Youth Fitness Program”, part of General Mills’ “community engagement mission [to] nourish our communities globally with remarkable philanthropy”.
- “By philanthropically funding various educational resources, physical activity initiatives, scientific research and marketing campaigns, big food attempts to divert the public’s attention from less agreeable, less healthy practices (e.g. junk food marketing, hidden sugar in processed food). Simultaneously, this philanthropy is a strategy that attempts to gain a “halo effect” for the corporation; an endeavour to shape consumers’ image of the corporation (and its products) as healthy, but also socially responsible, even caring.”