Because hint® is so mission driven, I’ve been thinking a lot about corporate social responsibility lately – and I am beginning to speak about it. Within big companies, it is often viewed as the one branch of the company focused on philanthropy.
But what is corporate social responsibility…really?
The way I’ve been thinking about it is the simplest way I can -- by looking at the three words the phrase includes and how they show up in my company and my life. Corporate. Social. And Responsibility.
Often in big corporations, the philanthropic or non-profit arm that becomes the social good center, but what about the responsibility of the companies themselves? This morning, I read a piece on CDC execs being asked to step down because they’d been trading emails with executives in Coca-Cola. While that article doesn’t have enough journalistic depth to convince me that it is entirely accurate (it doesn’t link to any of the original emails), what IS ENTIRELY true without question: the CDC has not taken a stand on limiting sugar consumption, though the World Health Organization has stated that “limiting intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake is part of a healthy diet.”
The sugar industry-lobby is a powerful influence in all sorts of places. Whatever their influence within organizations like the CDC, big soda companies are some of the biggest corporations and economic forces in the world – and with that size comes both power and responsibility.
The question is: what is that responsibility? Should corporations that produce especially harmful products even exist?
I’m not saying they shouldn’t. What I am saying is that accepting things in the world, simply because they have been that way for a long time (or because they are well-funded and income sources) is not a best practice overall. That extends corporations. Corporations DO have responsibility. We need to look more closely at what those are.
I founded Hint because of my own health issues – which by the way showed up at a time when I was drinking 8 to 12 cans of diet soda a day. It was a whole health change in my life, not just diet soda-elimination that changed everything for me. But it didn’t just change my body. It changed my entire outlook on business. I realized: I wanted to make a difference. And I recognized that there were ways in which I could—I could create something that helped rather than hurt… I could choose to be part of (and found) a company that enhanced lives… I could be 100% responsible MYSELF in creating the kind of world I wanted to live in.
The people who choose to work in and create for—and even advise—companies like Coca-Cola are simply taking care of their families. There is never an issue with that.And there is a way in which every R&D choice in the system, every new product created, every purchasing decision can be made more mindfully in order to shift things in the direction of collective responsibility.
Forbes reported in April 2016 on “America’s 10 Best Corporate Citizens in 2016.” Companies on the list included Microsoft, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson. Notably, the big soda companies weren’t included in the top 10 or even the top 30. PepsiCo ranked 35. Coca-Cola ranked 44.
Part of our company’s mission is to improve life, civil, social, and personal. I made sure it was written into both our communications—internal and external—and our operating policy. Our mission is to help people get healthier. While building a billion dollar brand, we can still maintain that mission. There’s an Oprah quote that I love “create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” My grand vision includes a healthy world.
Responsibility is also a personal issue. Corporations, systems, and the world are just made up of people—trying to do their best. And each of those people can have a huge impact on how things happen. Every micro-decision and conversation and choice – to buy that brand or this one, to throw that bottle in the trash or recycle it—they all add up.
This article about Corporate Social Responsibility says that one of the big trends in CSR for 2016 is “transparency” . People increasingly expect brands to operate with ethics and openness in mind. That IS beginning to happen. The FDA recently created new guidelines mandating allowing consumers to know about added sugar in food and beverages. That’s a step.
That kind of transparency and clarity can also happen on a personal level. What choices do you make that you are proud to share with others? Which do you hide—and why? Look at those carefully. There is no moral judgment—but within them, there probably IS an opportunity to accept greater responsibility.
We are 100% responsible for how our world turns out. Each of us. Choose to make things better in some small way. And know, absolutely, that it does make a difference.
Kara Goldin is Founder and CEO of Hint Water, the fastest growing flavored water in the United States. Kara started Hint when she couldn't find a healthy flavored water that tasted great without questionable additives like sweeteners and preservatives. Hint Waterhas 0 calories, 0 sugar, and 0 diet sweeteners and can be purchased in stores as well as online at www.drinkhint.com in a variety of flavors including Blackberry and Watermelon, in still and sparkling as well as caffeinated.
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