Occasionally there is a tag line or quote that has a powerful impact and the ‘google’ motto, ‘Don’t be evil’, made public in the documentary film ‘Google; Behind the Scenes’ did that for me. To me these simple words did an excellent job of summarizing what we all bring to this world, as individuals or as corporations in the sense of whether we are contributing positively or negative to the global energy system. And this morning, after spending some time reflecting on the contents of the new Coca Cola advertisement which aired in Australian prime time last night, again the concept of ‘Don’t be evil’ echoed in my ears however this time, it was more ‘Don’t be evil Coca Cola’.
As a health professional, when I go to sleep at night, my goal is to feel that I have contributed positively to this world. Sure there are perks associated with working in the media but in general I see my role as a dietitian in contributing positively to the health and well-being of my clients. Indeed, there is nothing more gratifying than to see a client achieve their food and weight related goals in conjunction with my guidance and I am never as happy as when I have had a successful day seeing lots of clients who are on track health wise.
I imagine this would be the same for a number of professionals – teachers, parents, doctors’ even most lawyers, whose focus is to not only make money to live a comfortable life but to also put good energy, skills and resources back into the universe.
When I consider big multinational food companies who pump millions of sugar and fat based calories into the universe every day, I struggle to see the positive contribution. Sure, on one hand these groups create thousands of jobs, service a consumer want for these food types and give back to the community via various feel good initiatives, but should these groups still be rewarded when you argue that at least some parts of their business are a little bit evil in terms of what they are selling, developing and marketing?
These were the feelings I experienced when viewing the Coca Cola advertisement highlighting their commitment to smaller serving sizes of sugar based drinks; clearer caloric labelling and programs to support disadvantaged children get more active. Sure, it is great to see a company acknowledging that sugar based drinks are a contributing factor to obesity and also their commitment to do what they can to help but is it not a little bit hypocritical? Would those advertising dollars not be better spent on actually helping the managing obesity, at grass roots? Is it still a good thing when the underlying business model is to sell more and more liquid calories?
There is not one cause of obesity and successful obesity prevention and management requires numerous strategies and initiatives from individuals and as well as the public and private sectors. I do wonder though, if the executives of these big food companies rest easy at night? Whether, if they actually saw the impact of obesity at a grass roots level, would they continue to do what they do? And do they really believe that they are ‘doing no evil’ as they work towards plugging more and more high fat and sugar calories into the universe? What I do know is that I couldn’t do it, and while these groups are still around, the health professionals like me will have plenty of work to do, hopefully funded by Coca Cola or Pepsico in the future.