Coca-Cola: generous benefactor or evil brand master?

Streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar

Where does one draw the line about whether or not its graphic designers’ moral responsibility to keep their employees and work on something they don’t necessarily agree with or to let them go, adversely affecting their lives as well their families? Should they refuse to work for the client or take the job for the sake of their employees?

Coca-Cola Company is local in 206 countries, more than the United Nations. They have 700,000 employees, 50 million retailers, and 50 million customers all over the world. Critics of Coca-Cola condemn the company for encouraging a consumer culture that is unhealthy and economically draining on individuals.

In Do Good: How Designers Can Change the World, author David Berman talks about how Coke has branded the nation of Tanzania. In the 1990s they took care of all of their road signage and included the Coke brand on every sign. In some parts of Africa, Coke is considered medicinal and the price of a bottle of Coke is the same as an anti-malarial pill. While Coke is the best selling drink on the continent, a million Africans die each year of malaria. At the same time Coke is heavily invested in the local communities, imagine the economic impact and subsequent repercussions on the lives of those economically connected to the company if Coke suddenly disappeared as well as losing all of the benefits they do provide like road signage and schools.

Simon Berry is one individual who decided to see if there was a way to use Coca-Cola’s widespread distribution network to deliver something more. In 2008 Berry started a Facebook group to enlist Coca-Cola to help ship medicine to areas that need it. The group grew quickly and generated a lot of positive publicity. Soon after Berry founded ColaLife, an organization dedicated to helping Coca-Cola take simple medicines and other ‘social products’ to save lives, especially children’s lives.

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