This article over at New Internationalist got me all up in arms about this issue.
‘Capitalism failing to help the world’s poorest people AGAIN then, Bono?’
Red faces all round, report Corporate Watch, at the revelation that Bono’s celebrity-backed ‘Product Red’ campaign spent $100 million on promotion and only brought in $18 million for charity last year. Red is a campaign to raise money for AIDS treatment in Africa through encouraging consumers to buy special ‘Red’-branded products such as mobile phones and designer clothes from participating multinationals. ‘Capitalism failing to help the world’s poorest people AGAIN then, Bono?’ say Corporate Watch, perhaps a touch triumphantly. ‘Shopping isn’t the solution; just give directly and bypass American Express, Gap et al.’ And while you’re at it, visit this website: www.buylesscrap.org
I supported (RED)TM when they started. I bought a red hoodie that I may or may not have purchased if I didn’t think that part of the proceeds were going to do something I believe is good. It’s a great hoodie. I probably paid 5-10 dollars more than I would have paid for the same hoodie. So in terms of “doing something good” I should have just written a check for 10 dollars and sent it to WorldVision’s HIV program.
But on the other hand everything I learned about capitalism from my AP Economics class is telling me that this should work. I like to think that business can do good. Not just in the way that __% goes to a charity but that buying in a fair trade way is effective. And what about marketing? (RED) got African suffering in the faces of the 13-year olds walking past GAP, albeit in the face of attractive Don Cheadle.
If it’s a financially viable business strategy why not? If Bono makes money and sends 18 million to Africa why are we upset that it took millions more to make it happen? Seems sustainable to me. Is it really that different from buying food that’s organic or coffee that’s fair trade? I know it’s super trendy and there’s holes in the system. But I wouldn’t say that capitalism is failing to feed the world’s poor. Not singlehandedly, at least.