Focusing mainly on issues such as charity and employee lingering, corporations remain fairly vague in reporting on the way they translate community involvement policies into concrete actions and on the social impact of their community programs. Based on first-hand observations and on-site ethnographic accounts, this study seeks to enrich extant understandings of the character and consequences of corporate involvement in communities. The study follows the diffusion of Coca-Cola’s global branding strategy and the community involvement program it recommended to the Israeli franchisee and analyzes its design and execution on the ground.
The study finds a considerable gap between rhetoric of community involvement and practices of monopolizing the community to further the company’s ends. On a theoretical level, the study shows that community programs function as material performances of present-day capitalist ideology. Keywords capitalism, Coca-Cola, corporate community involvement, corporate social responsibility, governance, sociology Introduction This article offers a case study of the way a national subsidiary of a global corporation designs and executes community programs.
While substantial literatures in both sociology and management studies consider the interface f corporations and communities, only a handful of studies to date offer an in-depth analysis of the way community programs are deployed on the ground (CB. Bond, 2008; Addendum, 2009; Capsules, 2002; Immature et al. , 2009; Weller, 2009). In recent years, corporate community programs have been treated as an element of a broader movement, namely ‘corporate social responsibility’ (hereinafter CAR) (Haddock and Bayle, 1995).
Within this framework, community programs are often considered, alongside other philanthropic Corresponding author: Tamari Barky, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tell Aviva university, Tell Aviva 69978, Israel. Email: [email protected] Taut. AC. IL Downloaded from cry. Seepage. Com at REMIT UNIVERSITY on December 14, 2014 278 Critical Sociology 39(2) endeavourers, as the softer side of CAR (the hard-core consisting of self- regulation in the form of codes of conduct and management programs) (Hushed, 2003).
At the same time, the evolving literature on CAR is premised on the view (critical or otherwise) that the key factor in assessing current corporate behavior relates to its effect upon relevant stakeholders (lima, 2008). In fact, a stakeholder approach underlies the very normative turn that steered scholarship away from the legal-managerial analysis of corporations in terms of shareholders’ interests towards a consideration of employees, suppliers, and relevant communities (Junker and Foster, 2002).
Looked at with this conceptual framework in mind, the way corporations identify, target, and act upon what they consider to be relevant communities remains a fundamental issue: a focus on community programs may yield important insights concerning not only the impact of corporations on ‘real people’ but also the very means by which present-day capitalism actively participates in and hopes the nature of local governance (Matter et al. , 2003). However, empirical knowledge about the impacts of corporate involvement on communities and the way corporations translate their policies into concrete actions is still rather limited.
While corporate involvement in communities often relies on the emancipators rhetoric of community empowerment, giving back to the community, and fulfilling community needs, some critical accounts point at a considerable gap between publicly declared corporate policies and actual performance (Bannered, 2008; Hangman and Capsules, 2004; Shaman, 2004, 2005; see also Christian Aid, 2004). One study of corporate reporting on community involvement found that corporations mainly report on issues such as charity and employee volunteering (Global Reporting Initiative et al. 2008). 1 The study also found that such social reports focused only on the more readily available measurable indicators of community performance (e. G. The number of employees that participated in community programs and the number of volunteering hours allocated to projects) and avoided substantive evaluations of the actual impacts of projects. Referring to corporate reporting on these issues as vague, this study and others conclude hat corporations tend to count inputs rather than assess outcomes (also see Evolve, 2010).
Accordingly – and in order to somewhat fill the gap concerning our knowledge of the way community programs are designed and deployed on the ground – this study analyzes the ‘community involvement program’ of the Israeli franchise of the Coca-Cola Company. 2 Specifically, it analyzes the corporation’s worldwide Active and Healthy Lifestyle (ALL) branding strategy whose core output has been to encourage a variety of community involvement projects. The study traces the diffusion of this strategy to the coal Israeli franchise and the subsequent execution of the project at various locations.
The findings, detailed in the following sub-sections of the article, show that communities are subjected to two forces: the firm’s drive to enhance sales by means of sophisticated branding strategies and the firm’s response to public demands for greater stakeholder-oriented social responsibility. The outcome consists of community programs that have become captives of the imperative to combine ‘value’ with ‘values’: corporate practices that harness employees, local governments, and communities to the cause of enhanced profits.
In other words, the emergent thesis of this article is that community programs function as material performances of present-day capitalist ideology. Theoretical Framework The broad theoretical framework of this article builds upon critical sociological analyses that show the remarkable capacity of corporations to resolve reputation crises and to adjust to new public demands without compromising their drive for profits (Shaman, 2008; Skylark, 1997; Strange, 1996).
A key theoretical guideline is provided by the analysis of Bobolinks and Chapel, according to which ‘it is probably capitalism’s amazing ability to revive by endorsing some of the criticisms 279 Barky it faces that has helped in recent times to disarm the forces of anticlericalism, giving way to a triumphant version of capitalism’ (2005: 163).
Grounded in a tradition of study that focuses on processes of capitalist reproduction yet without reducing them to simple mechanical moves, the theoretical framework of this article directs our sociological gaze to real changes in corporate behavior, albeit such that successfully retain their level of profitability. In the present study, this overall theoretical approach is applied to the inconsideration of the trajectory and impact of some concrete corporate community-involvement programs. Relations between corporations and communities are as old as capitalism itself.
Typically framed as ‘community involvement’ or ‘community relations’, corporations had been experimenting with the creation of company towns and charitable displays of good corporate citizenship as early as the late 19th century (Jacobs, 1 997; Sustained and Ryan, 2007). Traditionally, corporate community involvement was perceived as part of the charitable role that firms have voluntarily undertaken thin the communities in which they operated as an add-on to their core business activities (Carroll, 1979; Crane et al. 2008). This early history notwithstanding, the significance and merit of corporate community programs assumed new meaning in the 1 9905, with the (re)-ascendancy of the notion of ‘corporate social responsibility’ as an overall conceptual umbrella for normatively assessing the impact of corporations on society (Dinner, 2001; Winston, 2002). Accordingly, some scholars have begun to evaluate community involvement as early forms of corporate social responsibility (Immature et al. 009) and to consider the extent to which the design and framing of corporate community involvement have undergone changes in recent years (Immature, 2007; Sustained and Ryan, 2007). For example, Chapel and Moon (2005) have noted that community programs often serene corporations as a major venue for implementing and displaying their social responsibilities, and Moon and Immature (in Charities Aid Foundation, 2006) have noted how community programs have been conveniently tied up with charitable corporate contributions and employee- volunteering initiatives.
Nevertheless, the place of community programs in his overall matrix has been somewhat pushed to the side in light of the theoretical focus on two broader aspects of CAR: first, the transformation of CAR from an activist agenda of public shaming to a business-led set of programs that are based on ‘the business-case for social responsibility’ (Carroll and Shebang, 201 0); and second, the transformation of CAR from being a political signal for curbing corporate hegemony by means of formal national and transnational regulation into a field of private and self-regulation (Outing, 2005).
In both cases, recent years have also witnessed the emergence f critical sociological scholarship which points out the link between said transformations and market-oriented neo-liberal policies in general (e. G. Bartlett, 2007; Vogel, 2008; and especially Shaman, 2004, 2010). As we shall shortly see, both directions of inquiry concerning the nature and trajectory of CAR have significant bearing for making sense of the way Coca-Cola designs and implements community programs.
However the empirical analysis below warrants a short elaboration on each of the abovementioned theoretical features of CAR. CAR as Business As previously mentioned, quite a few scholars – positively responding to and firming the overall ‘capitalist reproduction’ framework with which I began have noted that CAR crossed a crucial threshold of normative embedded news once it moved from the realm of altruistic values to the economic sphere of utility and risk (Power, 2004).
Nurtured, articulated, and globally diffused by business management academics and consultants, the new approach to CAR stipulates that the pursuit and adoption of socially responsible practices are not simply the morally right thing to do but also a profitable business strategy (Chapel and Moon, 2005; Marigolds and Walsh, 2001 ; Richly and 280 ritual sociology 39(2) Christopher, 2000; Vogel, 2005). Thus, in spite of the continuing vibrant academic debate on the relationship between CAR and profits and of the uncertain¶y’ of empirical evidence (Marigolds and Walsh, 2003; Perrine, 2006; Salesman et al. 2005), the business-case approach has become a pervasive belief among practitioners, consultants, MBA programs, and business executives. At first, the business-case approach tended to emphasize the potential commercial value of a good reputation, investors’ confidence, and the loyalty of employees which may be enhanced by sound social and environmental corporate practices (Schnitzel and Epstein, 2005).
At a more advanced level of sophistication, CAR has been bundled up with other corporate risk-management strategies, premised on the notion that social responsibility may serve as an effective mechanism for avoiding costly public relations scandals, legal claims, and other catastrophes which may result in sliding share value (Godlier et al. , 2009; Kettle and Ruggeri, 2005; Shaman, 2010). For present purposes, it is noteworthy that at least some scholars have critically commented upon the implications involved in the transformation of
CAR into a full-blown ‘business-case’. In particular, some attention has been given to the increasing tendency of corporations to shape socially responsible practices in ways that prioritize shareholders (and other immediate commercial concerns) as the ultimate ‘stakeholders’ of the firm, thereby at least potentially compromising the original underlying logic of CAR (Crane and Lives, 2003; Sustained and Ryan, 2007).
Directly relevant to the case below is the terminology that corporations and relevant consultancies have recently adopted, invoking terms such as ‘sustainable community development’, corporate community impact’, and ‘community investment’ when designing community programs (Campbell, 2007; Bombers et al. , 2000; Immature, 2007; Tsars et al. , 2009).
CAR as New Governance Another prominent scholarly view of CAR had tied it to the academic literature about ‘new governance’: the notion that present-day assemblages of political authority are premised on the increased participation of non-state actors in shaping public policy, on private-public dialogue, partnerships, and collaboration and, more broadly, on novel forms of regulation (Bingham et al. , 2005; Lobe, 2004).
The majority of new governance scholarship regards new governance as an effective political framework for bridging socioeconomic cleavages and for potentially allowing a greater degree of democratic participation (e. G. Breathiest, 2008; Pierre, 2000; Scarp, 1997). Furthermore, quite a few scholars noted that as the underlying logic of ‘new governance’ schemes rests on a marketable model of authority, public policy is best shaped and pursued by means of diverse and even competitive sources of authority such as local government, non-profit organizations, and commercial enterprises (Cutler et al. 1999). In turn, government itself assumes the form of a commercial enterprise, expected to achieve financial viability, to generate funds for public expenditures, and to enter into sustainable partnerships with other sources of authority (Lempel, 2001). New Governance is therefore also marked by the proliferation of regulatory instruments above and beyond legal directives such as private regulation, codes Of conducts, and best practices principles (Vogel, 2008).
Grounded in a critical perspective on governance, this article considers the proliferation of practical and discursive forms of governing in recent decades within the intent of the perceived triumph of the unilateral project and the transformation capacities of capitalism (Aesop, 1 998; Lipsticks and Rowe, 2005; Muff, 2005; Shaman, 2008, 201 0; Sounded, 2005). Accordingly, the increased participation of non-state actors in shaping policies and in the provision of social goods is understood in terms of processes of accommodation and normalization of authority.
This understanding allows the exploration of ways in which frameworks of governance obscure the asymmetry of power relations prevailing between social groups and networks. 281 As mentioned above, some scholarly observers have noted that present-day practices which are framed as displays of corporate social responsibility (e. G. Emphasis on voluntarism, partnerships with local government, assuming governmental-like functions in targeting or addressing the needs of communities) are premised on the scheme of new governance (Lipsticks and Rowe, 2005; Matter and crane, 2005; parker, 2002; scorcher and palazzo, 201 1).
Such observations may have significant bearing on the analysis of corporate community programs. In light of the literature, we should expect hat the design and execution of community programs would involve relations with other sources of local authority, would be explicitly based on issues of cost and utility, and would emphasize voluntary and non-coercive means for achieving social goals. This study shows how the two trajectories of CAR described above converge in the design and implementation of community involvement programs, and provides us with a sound theoretical framework for understanding their meaning and long-term implications.
Methodology and Design The study is based on two years of participant observations, in-depth interviews, and the compilation and analyses of textual intra- and inter- organizational materials (for details on data sources see Tables 1-3 in the appendix). Twenty-eight on-site observations included full-day trips to locations where the company deployed its programs, participation in managerial meetings at company hexed ratters and regional offices, and observations at events and informal gatherings organized by the company.
These observations included numerous on-site informal talks with mid- and high-level executives, town officials, and local residents. Interviews with corporate executives included a series of meetings with the company’s CEO, executives of the marketing and sales department, the human-resources department, and the chief technology officer. In-depth interviews were also held with blue-collar employees such as drivers, service technicians, and company-union leaders. All in all, apart from numerous anecdotal exchanges and observations, the findings below are based on 29 in-depth interviews.
Interviews were divided between a close-session set of preconceived questions (average 70 minutes) and open-ended conversations n a variety of related topics, both conceptual and practical. By and large, interviewees and informants consisted of three groups: high and mid-level executives of Coca-Cola, mid- and low-ranked employees of Coca-Cola, and officials and residents of towns where Coca-Cola deployed its program. A primary informant in the research had been the company’s Community Relations Coordinator with whom exchanges, joint field-trips, and formal interviews were conducted on a regular basis.
These included interviews held while joining her on various field missions and 11 formal recorded interviews t comma NY offices. Additional primary data was gathered from a variety of textual materials published or distributed by Coca-Cola for internal and external purposes. These included emails, printed correspondence, Powering presentations, management circulars, workflow, press releases, and the official web pages of both Coca-Cola Israel and the Global Coca-Cola Company. Finally, a note on access to the field is in order.
The initial request to conduct close observations at Coca-Cola was met with reluctance. Mid-level executives doubted the value of the study or otherwise expressed discomfort at peaking without authorization. In a last effort of persuasion, I scheduled a meeting with the CEO. In this meeting, invoking the idea that transparency was part of the social responsibilities of the company, and finding common ground around the notion that community programs were important to the company, consent was granted.
With high-level permission, later encounters were, by and large, open and forthcoming. All in all, Coca-Cola allowed me fair and open access to the meetings and events which are reported upon in this study. 282 The findings below are divided into three sub-sections. In the first section I show how corporate authority is deployed so as to define community needs in ways that fit organizational strategic considerations. In the second section I move to show how the corporation assumes a governing role, negotiating its community programs with local governments.
In the third section discuss how the overall result amounts to a material and ideological colonization of the community. End with some theoretical conclusions and suggestions for future research. Whose Needs? CAR between Value and Values In 2004 the community programs of Coca-Cola Israel changed focus and erection in response to directives from Coca-Cola’s world headquarters in Atlanta. Overseas, the marketing department of Coca-Cola developed a comprehensive strategic plan whose purpose was to add Reese a global sales crisis.
At the root of this crisis, at least according to prevailing beliefs at Coca- Cola, lay growing public awareness of soft-drinks-related health and nutritional harms and the increasing prevalence of obesity to which sugar- sweet soft drinks contributed (Heroic, 2009). In response Coca-Cola designed a ‘sustainability scheme’ which was aimed at improving its image as a brand omitted to promoting solutions to the worldwide health-related negative side-effects of ‘modern lifestyles’ (Coca-Cola, 2011 The newly designed strategic plan had come to be known as the Active and Healthy Lifestyle (ALL).
It consisted of several elements: enhancement of Coca-Cola’s line of products to a wider selection of diet beverages, juices, energy drinks, and water; a new policy of transparency concerning nutritional information on product labels; and a massive launch of community involvement projects that would directly and visibly promote nutritional education and physical activity. The ALL program sought to unite two organizational goals under the same roof: developing community programs which would enhance the nutritional value of the brand and thereby also display the investment of the firm in socially responsible practices.
Thus, from the outset CAR was perceived by the firm as bearing a commercial value and therefore as a suitable platform for advancing marketing issues such as re- branding, reputation, consumer trust, and investors’ confidence. In this regard, the newly envisioned community programs have signaled a transition room ‘old philanthropy’ to ‘strategic community engagement (Austin, 2000). This spirit of fusing social responsibility with marketing and branding concerns directly affected the newly shaped community involvement programs of Coca-Cola in Israel.
The Atlanta headquarters planned ALL as a global strategy and provided guidelines for the implementation of the ALL plan to national and regional bottling companies across the world. These guidelines were explicit on the absolute need to deploy the ALL plan through the active nourishment Of relations between the company and local immunities (interview with strategy and Research Manager). However it was left to the local branches to decide upon concrete details and to identify the most appropriate ways to achieve the stated goals (interview with Marketing Director).
In Israel, these directives led to a further conceptual link, not only between marketing and social responsibility but also between suitably adapted community programs and the employee volunteering programs of the firm. A new hybrid was born, carrying the somewhat complex title of ‘Employee Involvement Project for an Active Lifestyle for Social Change’. Until the arrival of the ALL plan and the revisions that it ushered in, Coca-Cola Israel supported a community project which ran under the title of ‘A Child’s Simi?.
The program consisted of regular financial contributions to children of battered women in 14 refuges across Israel. All these refuges were entitled to public funding yet depended heavily on the support of community centers, nonprofit organizations, plinth rapists, and commercial firms (Yang 2005). In addition to its financial 283 contributions to the refuges, the firm also secured a budget for charitable contributions on a sporadic basis.