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brands under fire

Walmart's $81 Million Fine for Toxic Dumping Undermines Sustainability Promises

Posted by Barry Silverstein on May 29, 2013 11:31 AM

Walmart's brand has taken a steady battering over the past year, and part of it is related to sustainability. 

Last March, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance issued a report called "Walmart's Greenwash" that said the leading retailer's sustainability campaign "has done more to improve the company's image than to help the environment." According to the report, Walmart's greenhouse gas emissions are increasing rapidly and its energy efficiency and renewable projects are "too modest" for the size and scale of the company's operations.

Add to that Walmart's latest environmental slap in the face: On May 28, the company pleaded guilty to dumping hazardous waste in California and Missouri, agreeing to pay more than $81 million in fines. In the greater scheme of things, the money is the least significant portion of the problem for Walmart. With $27.87 billion of operating profit last year, The Atlantic estimates that $81 million is little more than a single day's worth of profit for the retailer.Continue reading...

brands under fire

H&M, Primark Sign Bangladesh Safety Agreement; Gap Says It's Next [Update]

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 13, 2013 06:39 PM

The rescue efforts in Savar, Bangladesh have officially been turned over to recovery as the death toll surpasses 1,100 in what has become the worst accident in the history of the garment industry. But 20 days later, it seems that progress and change is beginning to emerge from the rubble of a decrepit industry. 

The Bangladeshi government has agreed to let garment workers form trade unions without the permission of factory owners—a breakthrough in workers' rights in a de-regulated country, where garment factories were shut down this week following worker unrest over wages and conditions.

The proposed  safety plan, backed by a coalition of labor groups, calls for independent inspections of factories and a legally binding fire and building safety plan requiring retailers to help pay for improvements to factory safety and is an amendment to the 2006 Labor Act lifting restrictions on forming trade unions in most industries.

The pact also calls for changes regarding severance payments, welfare fund payments, management practices and payment and banking standards. In what could be a game-changing announcement, Swedish retailer H&M announced Monday that it will sign the binding agreement.Continue reading...

media brands

Does the Bloomberg Terminal Scandal Undermine the Bloomberg News Brand?

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 13, 2013 10:55 AM

Reports broke late last week alleging that Bloomberg reporters were using the Bloomberg terminal to track (some might say stalk) employees at its financial services clients such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, all the way up to high-profile individuals such as Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner — even, apparently, the new company's namesake founder, Michael Bloomberg. 

Following a company-wide email on Friday and a Buzzfeed report that this ability was disclosed by a Bloomberg TV reporter two years ago, Bloomberg L.P. CEO Dan Doctoroff acknowledged in a story published by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the a firewall should have prevented its journalists from accessing such user data long "earlier":Continue reading...

sip on this

Coca-Cola Pledges To Cut Ads to Kids, Display More Calorie Information

Posted by Dale Buss on May 9, 2013 09:47 AM

Coca-Cola broadened its pledges to provide more calorie information to consumers and to stop advertising to children around the world, but the media was quick to scour the fine print of the company's promises as the beverage leader tries to win over consumers. 

CEO Muhtar Kent announced on Wednesday, the brand's 127th anniversary, that the company was taking a four-pronged approach to battling obesity, an issue that it has acknowledged lately in many ways but at the same time has attempted to deflect blame from its iconic sugary sodas.

As part of an initiative it's calling Coming Together, Coca-Cola wants to communicate that it's part of the solution, not the problem. The beverage giant and its local partners will label all packages with calorie details on the front, expand the availability of low- and no-calorie beverages in every market, support more physical activity programs, and stop advertising to children under 12.Continue reading...

brands under fire

As Death Toll Rises in Bangladesh Factory Collapse, Brands Face Scrutiny Over Ethics (Updated)

Posted by Sheila Shayon on April 26, 2013 05:33 PM

The death toll in the latest Bangladesh garment industry disaster has risen to more than 300 as rescue crews continue to pull survivors from the rubble of Rana Plaza and search for an estimated 500 workers still missing, with more than 2,500 already rescued.

In the aftermath of the garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for those responsible to turn themselves in. It is believed that the building owner and factory owners are in hiding after ignoring warnings from police and industry officials to forbid workers to enter the building after cracks were discovered on Tuesday. The building collapsed on Wednesday. 

"Whoever might be the culprits, and if even they belong to our party, they won't go scot-free," the impoverished nation's Prime Minister warned. (Update: The factory owners were arrested on Friday night, when the death toll had risen to 336.)

The disaster shines a light, yet again, on global apparel companies that outsource manufacturing to Bangladesh, a practice that has ballooned into an $18 billion industry as clothing companies continue to adandon manufacturing in China, where inflation and rising wages are pushing up costs. The upshot: Bangladesh and its questionable garment industry is now the world's second-biggest garment manufacturing center.Continue reading...

social media watch

Brands Show Solidarity, Support in Wake of Boston Marathon Bombings

Posted by Alicia Ciccone on April 16, 2013 01:13 PM

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday, many took to social media to help locate loved ones and confirm safety, while brands spoke out, offering consoling thoughts along with offers of free services and aid to victims and locals affected by the attack — and then retreated to the sidelines, cancelling promoted tweets and Facebook status updates unless they could be of service.

In that vein, Google quickly developed a Boston version of its Person Finder tool, while JetBlue, Airbnb and other brands and businesses (big and small) that could help the distressed and stranded sprang into action. For some, like Adidas, sponsorship of the event led to an unfortunate juxtaposition with terror, as the brand's logo and "All In" tagline was featured at the finish line, and thus the front page of the Boston Globe.

Ford's head of social media, Scott Monty, tweeted some advice to brands for those unsure of how to respond—but sadly, with horrific events becoming more frequent these days, marketers are getting more adept at what to do (and more importantly, what not to do).Continue reading...

corporate citizenship

AT&T Takes Top Billing on Best Corporate Citizens List

Posted by Sheila Shayon on April 12, 2013 04:34 PM

AT&T has landed at top spot on CR Magazine's 14th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, beating out other top Russell 1000 large-capitalization companies on merits including human rights and corporate governance.

Rounding out the top 10 on the new list: Mattel, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eaton Corp, Intel, Gap, Hasbro, Merck & Co., Campbell Soup Co. and Coca-Cola. 

The ranking crunches 298 data points of disclosure and performance measures across seven categories: environment, climate change, employee relations, human rights, governance, finance and philanthropy. 

Notably, 26 companies on the 2013 list were not on the 2012 list, while 11 companies have appeared on the list every year since 2007. For those that were bestowed the honor, many were quick to highlight the significance of employee participation to the success of the company's initiatives.Continue reading...

retail watch

In Wake of Bangladesh Disaster, Walmart Stiffens Policies for Global Suppliers

Posted by Dale Buss on January 22, 2013 01:44 PM

When can the pot call the kettle black? When the pot is Walmart — and when it's warning suppliers that it is adopting a "zero-tolerance policy" for violations of its global sourcing standards.

The world's most ubiquitous retailer has announced it plans to sever ties with any company that subcontracts work to factories without the retailer's knowledge. The move follows a November fire at a Bangladesh garment factory that not only killed 112 people but also revealed Walmart clothing was made there without the company's knowledge.

The tougher new policies replace Walmart's previous "three strikes" approach to policing suppliers. "Obviously [that policy] wasn't working as well as it could have," Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president of ethical sourcing, told the Wall Street Journal. "Our message of zero tolerance is meant to get people's attention."Continue reading...

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