Inspi(red) or just another colour?

One of the world’s most famous models is Gisele Bundchen from Brasil. Recently she has come out of retirement (At 26 !) to support the ‘Red Campaign’. The campaign is, according to Gisele, the only reason she came out of a season of retirement. “I had decided I wasn’t going to do anything,” she says. “But this was so great, the whole idea. I was like, ‘I have to do this.’”
Gisele will be the new face of the Red American Express card (you may have seen large posters showing her draped, laughing, over a Masai warrior). She says that of all the trends that have littered her career, this is the one she’s most proud of. ‘Making charity trendy?’So what is Red all about? Back in January 2006 U2’s Bono launched this new global brand or associated product code called. The aim is for a share of profits from ‘Red’ branded products produced and sold by the likes of major brands, for example: American Express, Gap, Converse and Giorgio Armani. Monies to raise a percentage of purchases that will then be used to fight against Aids in Africa. Suggested / Proposed products will include: T-shirts, footwear, sunglasses and a credit card. The hope is that profits from the venture will generate a “sustainable” flow of money to support the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria.Back in January Bono warned the world was losing the fight against HIV/Aids, with 6,500 Africans dying of the disease every day. He emphasised that this was a commercial venture and not philanthropy. He suggested that, ‘Philanthropy is like hippy music, holding hands. Red is more like punk rock, hip hop, this should feel like hard commerce’. The theory is that one day hundreds of companies could offer ‘red’ branded products. Red partners, in turn, hope to broaden their customer base while doing something good at the same time. Since Red was first launched with Bono and Scarlett Johansson, the campaign has been gathering pace.
Hang on ! Doesn’t this sound appear to sound like a mix of commercialism and a connection to the human spirit of giving? It is certainly not something new as many organisations in the past such as the Co-op group have tried similar initiatives like ethical energy investments on the stock exhange. I recently saw an excellent documentary on Anita Roddick of The Body Shop. Her approach is different. NB The first Body Shop

was basic and at first sold only 15 lines. The Body Shopp’s full range now has over 300 products. The Biography channel (An excellent source of information) outlined how she has helped fair trade and support communities, again by linking the human spirit to everyday purchases.

Being positive, any initiative that raises money has to be commended. Although the concept of red could be described as a built-in mechanism for raising fund, for example according to the terms for the card, everytime an American Express RED card holder spends money, 1% of the eligible spend will go to the Global Fund – one could argue that something is better than nothing. However, when it comes to negotiating trade allowances many countries find it difficult to give away any trade allowances. Led by the United States and the European Union, the rich nations’ campaign to force open Third World countries’ markets while protecting their own was frustrated again when the round of World Trade Organisation-sponsored negotiations initiated in 2001 at Doha, Qatar, were suspended on July 27. Under the Doha Round, the rich nations want to make further inroads into “liberalising” the “trade in services”, slash Third World countries’ attempts through import tariffs to protect their domestic markets from domination by First World-based transnational corporations, and scale-back economic concessions granted to Third World countries by the rich Western powers under previous trade deals.

I guess the message is that although commercial retail organisation have commenced the red programme, after years of governments talking, we cannot seem to get to the root of the issue – some concessions are needed to harmonise world economies. Models can help yet the true will for change must come from all of us urging those that have the power to make change happen for the benefits of all in this world.

Categories: 2006, Anti-Poverty, Fair trade

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