Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

PUR marketing

PURely a temporary solutionProcter & Gamble (P&G) is currently running a promotional campaign under their brand name PUR where, when you use their product coupons between now and April 6th, for each coupon used, they will donate 1 liter worth of PUR Purifier of Water packets to third world countries.

Using the tag line "Save Money, Improve Lives" P&G hopes to distribute 50 million liters of water to areas of need. According to news releases on the program's website, "PUR Purifier of Water is engineered to be a mini-water treatment plant in a packet. The product removes dirt, cysts, and pollutants, and kills bacteria and viruses in contaminated water."

On the surface, this appears to be a very noble and worthy cause and, of course, it is. Access to clean water is a huge problem in many developing nations and water-borne diseases result in the death of millions of children and adults each year. According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2006 Summary, over 1.1 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water.

But what are the problems inherent with this campaign? Well, to begin, PUR water purifier packet donations do not result in a long-term solution for these areas. Once the packets run out, these individuals are left with the same dirty water full of "worms, bacteria and germs". So, while they are undoubtedly providing a much needed resource in the short-term, it is not a very viable long-term solution for these communities.

What does Procter & Gamble have to gain from their donations? A lot of very good publicity as well as encouraging consumers to purchase their products when they otherwise might not. Additionally, they are, in effect, tapping into a huge market in these countries. Under the Live, Learn and Thrive Initiative, P&G has been selling their PUR water filtration packets at cost to not-for-profit and humanitarian groups for use in the developing world. If they hook aid agencies and local governments into purchasing packets of PUR for a short-term fix rather than investing in infrastructure to provide long-term water solutions for these communities, it could turn into a very large financial gain for the company down the road.

From a consumer or citizen perspective, if you are concerned about the lack of clean water in these communities, you can donate money to organizations that concentrate on providing long-lasting solutions, such as H20 Africa, Water Aid or Charity Water, who fund projects that include the installation and rehabilitation of freshwater systems by digging wells and training local water committees. Granted, it's not as easy as buying a bottle of Tide detergent, but it will have a lot longer lasting impact.


From the lion's mouth said...

Coincidentally, my dad just sent me a press release urging Australians to give up bottled water and spend the money on sanitation projects instead.

DC said...

This kind of thing happens all the time. As Crunchy has written about in the past, Procter & Gamble is giving away disposable pads in Africa to get good PR and future customers. P&G also made donations for African immunizations based on the number of boxes of Pampers purchased during a certain period -- they even got the Unicef logo put on their product for doing this.

No, it's not bad to help others, but the motive is clearly profit, not goodwill, and it is the corporations that benefit the most. The donations are usually big, flashy ones that aren't necessarily where the money could do the most good. P&G could make a general, unrestricted donation to help improve overall access to clean water, but this wouldn't get little packets with the PUR logo on them spread all over Africa.

Did you know that there are limits on charitable deductions for individuals, but none for corporations? If a regular person makes a huge charitable donation, he or she may be restricted as to how much can be taken as a tax deduction. Corporations have no such restrictions -- they can generally deduct the full amount of all donations as business expenses. And that's what this is all about: business. I read an article recently (written by the worldwide Greens party) that even suggested that corporate donations should be prohibited because they do more harm than good. I think this may be going a little too far, but I can certainly appreciate the sentiment behind the article.

C said...

World Vision also does deep wells. $18,000 will build one. It urks me that companies give ... to promote themselves. Seriously, how many $18,000 wells could P&G afford out of their own pocket ... without gimics?


Cave-Woman said...

Recently I saw a documentary about solar energy being used in Kenya/other parts of Africa. One of the many uses for solar was to boil water so that it could be safely used.
It had the additionally awesome effect of reducing/eliminating the need to use scarcely found firewoods. ( This helps keeps ground level moisture and encourages healthy vegetation.)Also, when cooking food you didn't need to add extra water as most foods were able to cook in their own juices---making meats and veggies extra tender and nutritious. And if that wasn't good enough --women who suffered from a variety of kitchen lung ( sorry---can't remember the term used in the documentary) due to fumes/smoke inhaled from burning kitchen cooking fires no longer had that irritation.

So, the solar cooker went a long way to improving the lives of these women---with particular regard to the water issue.

I believe the woman who championed the movement is called "Mamma Solar".

Anonymous said...

Is it really impossible to mix goodwill and profit? Just wondering.

Crunchy Chicken said...

shellyg8r - Can we consume our way to a better planet? That's a tough question.

Anonymous said...

Crunchy, I agree. It is a tough question. On one hand reckless consumption is wasteful, but on the other, no consumption means no jobs, no growth. A balance is needed.

But, I don't believe PUR is evil (that sounds funny!). Yes, their product is consumable, but for most of the people they are helping, the need for that consumable product is dire until other means are developed. Maybe people could encourage PUR to support both efforts, the short term needs and the long term.

BTW, love your picture on the link!

Pen of Jen said...

I have a huge problem with companies donating after you the consumer make a purchase.

I think of the yogurt lids that we need to send in, and then money will be sent for breast cancer studies....

I wonder why they don't just do we need to purchase the product, then wash and mail in...

My husband and I work hard to give to the source...not always easy as so much money is involved...product recognition alone is huge, and of course charities need chairpersons to run and admin to distribute and on and on and then who really benefits?

Just like girl scout cookies and the local troop only receiving 30 or so cents.

Just my thoughts.

Greenpa said...

It looks to me like the product; the PUR system- is a fabulous thing- for emergencies. Like when a flood has wiped out your regular water supply.

And pretty much useless for "everyday". Way too expensive for those who need it.

"Here, you can have ONE glass of clean water, without worm cysts, viruses, and parasitic protozoa! Isn't that great? And we MAY be back next year, so you can have another one then!"

More than a little insulting, too.

just ducky said...

My belief is that the average consumer needs to engage their brain and stop the impulse buying because *whatever* company donates to charity/provides services. We need to investigate these allegedly humanitarian efforts before we shell out the money. Some of these ventures will be genuine and worth our support---others will be a crock of crap like most of P& G's stuff. But the things that are genuine--we should absolutely support them both financially and via word of mouth/blog!

"whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!"...from the play Inherit the Wind.

ruchi said...

You've hit the nail on the head, Crunchy. My uncle works in the drylands of India doing water shed development. Their group has gotten the local people intimately involved with everything ... building of ecologically sustainable dams, tube wells, etc. The reason for this is two-fold. One, they pay the people living wages for this (even shockingly paying the women the same as the men.) Two, once the people know HOW to build these dams and wells, they will be able to start building themselves. So if they are in a situation where there isn't an outside NGO, they still have the basic knowledge of how to do such things. It's the classic, teach 'em to fish paradigm. Proctor and Gamble doesn't want them to fish though, because if they fished on their own, they wouldn't buy Proctor and Gamble. That's the problem.

DC said...

I just ran across an article about how bottled water sellers (Coke and Pepsi) are trying to counteract the negative publicity bottled water is getting (because of its detrimental environmental and social impacts) by tying bottled water sales to charitable donations. It's just another example of corporate greed disguised as do-good-ery. You can read about it here.

Unknown said...

I'm writing as that impulse buying consumer that these companies cater to. As I agree that we need to think of long term solutions, I don't know that these promos are as bad as we might think. It isn't often that I start thinking of these problems on an everyday basis. I should but I don't. I know that the people reading this site probably do more than the majority of the US. My point is that the more that we see these issues being put in the media, the more likely they'll be a chance that someone will find a solution. Is P&G promoting itself? Of course. But they are probably just being lazy and doing the easiest thing that they can do for help. But maybe, someone will see what they are doing and improve on this system of purifying water or make a huge donation to a more permanent improvement. Didn't people on this site start making pads for girls after Crunchy pointed out the problem with the P&G program? Would people have done it had they not had the promotion?

I can speak from experience. Crunchy is my sister-in-law, and we don't always agree on things and she is wayyyyyyyyyyyy more environmentally friendly than myself. However, by reading her blog, I'm slowly coming around. I have made many changes and I'm probably a pretty typical unaware consumer.

While other people make strides to make more permanent solutions to these problems, us less aware people can help too. We can buy the products that make these donations rather than the ones from companies who do squat.

Food for thought? Let me know, I won't get hurt feelings.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how facts inform conscience. Because it all comes down to moral comfort levels, it seems.

Big corporations can do very little (selling water kits AT COST to charitable organizations?!) from their normal operating procedures and tell themselves and their consumers of the warm fuzzy feelings that come with this action. Consumers who buy into the P&G gimmick will feel like they've made a difference and done a good thing, with the same warm fuzzies.

But others, armed with information (and perhaps a healthy distrust of enormous corporate charity schemes), see this for the "charity-washing" that it is. (I don't know if that's a word, like "greenwashing" now is, but you know what I mean.) And seeing through the ploy makes us all UNCOMFORTABLE with the seemingly-good actions of this corporation.

Corporations and consumers will continue to buy into these charitable setups as long as both sides continue to be comfortable with their outcomes. It is INFORMATION that makes us uncomfortable with the situation- people like Crunchy raising awareness, as she did with Goods4Girls and dozens of other issues. Facts inform conscience.

Unless you're a big bad corporation. I don't think there's a conscience to inform in that case.

What I wonder is this: is supporting this project by consuming P&G products better than doing nothing (not consuming but doing nothing to support clean water initiatives on my own)? Is my doing NOTHING better than my neighbor using the coupons and thus doing something via the channels of consumption and corporate "charity"?

Anonymous said...

Krissy-You said what I was trying to say, but much more eloquently. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

On one hand reckless consumption is wasteful, but on the other, no consumption means no jobs, no growth. A balance is needed.

Do we really need to grow anymore? Are bigger corporations going to make us happy/greener/healthier somehow? Is there some other advantage?

If we all started living sustainably that would take up most of our time, but we wouldn't need money to buy things. All our modern conviences have done is give us time that we can waste. We don't get anymore work done, we don't spend more time with our families (unless we watch TV together).

Anonymous said...

"On the surface, this appears to be a very noble and worthy cause..."

I disagree. Even on the surface this looks despicable to me. Is there anyone that can't see right through this? P&G must think so.

Even if this inadvertently wakes some people up to the issue they're exploiting, it's disgusting, because the intent is to take advantage of the issue.

Anonymous said...

In theory, I don't have THAT much of a problem with corporations profitting from their charities, but one has to consider the long term consequences of these donations. PUR can be a great solution in a short-term, emergency situation, but this campaign reminds me too much of the Nestle baby formula faisco. Nestle promoted and donated their baby formulas in several areas in Africa. Sounds nice, right? Except that the use of formula lowered women's supplies of breast milk so that they had no choice but to continue with formula, and at that point Nestle expected these mothers to pay for the forumula. So, to stretch it out, the mothers would cut the formula with the unclean water available to them, which resulted in a lot of sick/dead babies.

I can just imagine people using the filters longer than they're supposed to, resulting in them drinking contaminated water.

Anonymous said...

Crunchy, your name makes me hungry :)

Everyone makes such good points here. I live in the crispy-crunchy Bay Area, so I kind of get a continual ongoing gentle education in issues like this, at about the same level that P&G customers elsewhere might. Like, I'm at least vaguely aware that water availability is a huge issue in a lot of places, and definitely that a lot of companies and organizations go out there and do the "have some fish" instead of "here's how to fish" thing.

To me, I think the key is that those are both political issues. The lack of availability of water is a big problem, and so is the more widespread and less specific problem of people only being able to get short-term, superficial help.

It can have good unintended effects like raising awareness, inspiring people to donate or to start their own more sustainable projects, but it can also perpetuate situations where people don't have the long-term support they need, the stuff that they are being given is polluting and isn't widely available or doesn't last (like the disposable pad issue), and governments just keep taking it and not working toward sustainability.

Anonymous said...

First off, please read this with the picture of my benevolent, non-confrontational, non-agressive face in mind. Really... I feel the love for all of ya!!!

Imagine......all the corporations and big businesses are gone. What do we do with the people who no longer have jobs? Benefits? Retirement plans? (One thing a lot of people don't realize is how much of their 401K plans and other retirement accounts are based upon the success of said corporations.) Can we all live sustainably? Even in the cities? I'm trying to be a green as I can and to do the best I can, but there are limits when I can't have livestock or open flames in my neighborhood .

I'm not suggesting that there are not instances of corporate greed, I'm sure there are. But all corporations and big businesses are not evil. Is a corporation that gives charitably worse than one that doesn't give at all?

PUR, for example, makes water filters, they don't make wells and water-based infrastructure. It only makes sense that they would donate their product. If they make a profit in the meantime,well, that's what businesses do. That's what defines them as a business and not a charity. Businesses can't stop making a profit and start giving all their money away. They would soon be defunct businesses. :)

As for the baby formula situation, I totally agree that that was a calculated plan. (Although, I have non-breast feeding friends that don't see a problem there.) But I really don't think the heads of PUR sat around and concocted a plan to addict the people in Africa on PUR water filters. It seems to me that they saw a problem where their product could help and stepped in. Now, it's our job to contact these companies and suggest further charitable work, like helping build the wells and such.

I agree with Krissy, that by doing these promotions, companies may be helping many people who would not have been aware of these situations be better educated. Some people need to take baby steps toward a greener lifestyle. Crunchy was spurred by one such promotion and now has created a wonderful organization that I was very proud to donate to. Isn't that worth something?

Shelly... respectfully shutting up now and taking her kids to baseball practice.

Love ya'll!

Robj98168 said...

One of my favorate charities concerning water is Play Pumps they have come up with a way to pump clean water and let kids play at the same time. Thank YOu Crunchy for posting this- When I saw this ad, I thought hmmm what is in it for P&G....

camp mom said...

When I first saw the Procter & Gamble ads for disposable ads I hadn't even thought of the fact that girls would be missing school because of lack of ways to take care of their periods. Wake up call from Crucnhy about not having places to change them, how they get disposed of over in Africa etc. Okay it started out sounding great for Procter and Gamble to do but after I learned more well it seemed stupid. Now with the PUR water thing I thought right off whats the catch?

If anything thanks Crunchy for keeping us informed and getting some of us to think a little (or alot) before we buy into corporate donations....

Anonymous said...

Shelly, I don't think the people at PUR responsible for this are being malicious, but they are, at best, extremely short-sighted. Even if they're doing this out of the goodness of their hearts without any thought of profits, the downsides and potential consequences needs to be discussed.

hoorayparade said...

Crunchy,P&G is going to start coming after you here shortly!

My sister today asked me if I was going to by a bracelet that donates $2.50 to domestic violence services. and I said "Why don't I just donate all the money I would use to buy the bracelet to a DV service?" Then she said something about the bracelet being pretty.

I have mixed feelings about the way I responded because she really was excited about it and I went all elitist on her. It makes her feel good and when she is asked about the bracelet she can tell others what its about and maybe (hopefully) that will spread awareness to people who otherwise wouldn't think about it.

But really, I hope we can find a healthy balance between consumerism and advocacy. Maybe we will get to a point where every big corporation will have something to buy where they can donate to charity. Because I don't know if anyone is ever going to just be giving all or most of their money away.

Regardless, I could have approached that situation with my sister in a much less judgmental way.
I mean, I don't think we are going to get everyone to think about it like we do.


P.S. Crunchy? What did you think of Greenpa's food blog?

P.P.S. Sorry I deleted my comment! When I am not using firefox I can't see my horrible spelling errors!

Crunchy Chicken said...

hoorayparade - Greenpa has a food blog?

Ananda Devika said...

For all you Bono/U2 fans, another well-digging org we hear all about here in Omaha is the African Well Fund, started by a group of U2 fans...
I'm not entirely familiar with their reputation or history, but I CAN quote the entire radio ad. (They play it 6+ times a day, I swear). :)

hoorayparade said...

Hahaha. My apologies. His blog entry on food distribution. The one dated March 16, 2008.