Not any more

UNICEF sold out by making deal with Cadbury, medical journal says

In Canada on October 30, 2010 at 21:44

One of the world’s most influential medical journals is accusing UNICEF Canada of selling out its values by allowing candy giant Cadbury to use its logo to sell Halloween candy.

In an editorial published online Saturday, the Lancet slammed UNICEF Canada for accepting $500,000 from Cadbury Adams Canada Inc. over a three-year period for construction of schools in Africa in exchange for allowing the company to plaster the iconic – and valuable – UNICEF logo on millions of product packages a year.

More related to this story

Charities benefit from corporate partnerships by receiving much-needed funds to help run their programs and greater public exposure. But the relationship is also lucrative for corporate sponsors because many consumers look favourably on companies that are aligned with good causes, which can help drive sales.

This Halloween, large packages of chocolate bars and candy sold by Cadbury feature a prominent UNICEF sign on the front beside words that indicate one package of candy equals one brick for an African school. On the back of the packages is the statement that “Just by purchasing this product you are helping to give children in Africa a chance at a better life.”

UNICEF Canada has made a serious error in judgment by allowing a candy company to use its name to sell high-fat, high-sugar and overall unhealthy products under the guise of raising money for African programs, the editorial states.

In Canada, a country with serious health and obesity problems, “encouraging products which are undeniably unhealthy is irresponsible,” the editorial says.

But Cadbury is also misleading consumers by linking purchase of their products to helping children in Africa, according to Amir Attaran, Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health and Global Development.

Dr. Attaran, who brought the controversial partnership to the Lancet’s attention, highlighted the fact Cadbury doesn’t provide a portion of its sales to UNICEF. Rather, it agreed to provide a fixed figure of $500,000 over three years to UNICEF.

“That’s probably false advertising,” he said. “UNICEF’s whole raison d’être is to promote healthy children , healthy nutrition in the developing world, to actively undermine their own mission by promoting junk food in Canada, which is clearly linked to obesity in kids, diabetes in kids, activity disorders in kids, is a fundamental repudiation of their mission and it goes right to the heart of their credibility.”

The editorial also questions the cost at which it says UNICEF sold its values. Cadbury’s three-year commitment of $500,000 is nothing compared the hundreds of millions the organization generates around the world each year.

It also points out that UNICEF’s guidelines for working with the business community state it is “prepared to consider alliances with corporate affiliates in the alcohol or tobacco industry” but only under tight restrictions.

“Clearly, UNICEF needs to take a hard look at how they use their brand and consider the long-term implications of their actions,” the editorial says.

But Kim Moran, acting CEO and president of UNICEF Canada, dismissed the criticism, arguing the organization has held Halloween campaigns for decades. Allowing messages about UNICEF’s activities on Cadbury packages does not undermine its commitment to the well-being of children, she said.

“We’re a strong advocate for the benefits of proper nutrition,” Ms. Moran said.

The partnership with Cadbury involves a seasonal Halloween campaign that exposes countless Canadians to messages about UNICEF Canada’s important work, Ms. Moran said.

“Cadbury has not only made a generous cash contribution, but they’re using the product packaging and in-store signage to tell Canadians about the situation of education in Malawi and Rwanda and our work to address that problem,” Ms. Moran said.

She said that marketing is worth millions “and UNICEF Canada could never have spent that kind of money generating this kind of awareness.”

The three-year partnership with Cadbury is about to end and there are no immediate plans to start a new one, Ms. Moran added.

UNICEF has a complex process for approving new corporate partnerships and does not work with companies who use child labour or are engaged in other harmful activities, she said.

Cadbury officials did not agree to an interview, but said in a statement the company “maintains a high level of commitment to organizations that seek to better the lives of others, both at home and in developing countries.”

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