Monday, February 25, 2008

The Benetton CSR Spin ... Shame on Them!

Dear Colleagues

One of the people in our network made the following observation:
I was walking on the Paris grand boulevards a few days ago when my attention was caught by giant posters displayed in Benetton's shop windows. The posters were shamelessly taking credit for their micro-credit action in Africa, with posters of beneficiaries etc. While I do not mind multinational companies doing some PR around their social action (like Danone with the Danone-Grameen project and Zizou for the celebrity angle), I couldn't help finding Benetton's approach crude and even disingenuous. ... SNIP SNIP ... this commercial exploitation of CSR should be denounced lest they drag down the whole concept of micro-credit ... SNIP SNIP ... The role of micro-credit is after all to alleviate poverty, NOT to sell more pullovers. This may only foster more cynicism among the wider public.

I could not agree more. CSR is a good thing, but it is open to all sorts of abuse. I would expect that there is more spin, if not downright abuse, of CSR than there is serious socio economic benefit. The problem is that nobody really knows. The metrics are not accessible.

In the case of Benetton I would like to see time series numbers for the following:
* Gross Sales
* Operating Profit
* Cost of CSR
* Cost of Advertising and Promotion

I would like to have the following numbers for the same time periods:
* Amount of Benetton's microcredit
* The amount of microcredit in Africa
* The amount of microcredit in the World

Everyone uses the little personal stories to market themselves. It is commonplace in the marketing of CSR in the corporate community, and it is also common in the fund raising area of the NGO community, and indeed, the UN organizations themselves. This a practice that has its roots in journalism ... and one day it would be good to see this replaced by reporting that has its roots in old fashioned accountancy where the numbers really do stand up and give a true and fair view of the situation.


Peter Burgess

1 comment:

Emmanuelle said...


I'm writing my thesis on this subject. Did U do any further research on the Benetton case?

If so, could you please contact me on