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Partner, Milsal + McCaull


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Pepsi's TED talk: Progressive corporate transformation, or TEDwashing (like greenwashing for intellectuals)?

How do we encourage corporations to be involved in the debate, discussion, action and hopefully be a part of massively needed solutions, without creating an apologia or greenwashing for current business practices? The PepsiCo talk highlighted the good, the foundation, social interaction, and Indra is a very charismatic leader, yet the bulk of their business is peddling unsustainable relatively non-nutritive snack foods and beverages with huge amounts of waste packaging (all FritoLay, Gatorade, QuakerOats) worldwide, with huge amounts of lifestyle and neuromarketing science going into creating demand, and the science of sales optimization. On the other hand, I look at how WalMart (big TED involvement) and how their sustainability efforts have been able to move the needle in packaging, or fisheries, and am grateful for their participation. Or Shell, a prior sponsor.

Can a Pepsi reinvent at the product level?

Here is the debate:
What is the role of corporations at TED, or on the TED stage?


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    Mar 5 2011: @Ahmet Exactly, the primary reason that I continue to work for a big company is that I can use the resources of that company to influence a multitude of things to a higher degree than would be possible as an individual. I work for BASF http://www.basf.com/group/corporate/en/sustainability/society/social-business

    I believe that we are pointed strongly in the right direction and have the possiblilty to use the technologies we invent to make a difference in the way that the world moves forward.

    Also, one perosnal goal is to have a TEDxBASF in 2012.

    Companies have the mass to move the homan species quickly!
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      Mar 5 2011: Good luck with the TEDxBASF!

      Also I think every TED talk is a "promotion." In every TED talk we promote a person, a studio, a research lab etc. Why not big companies?
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        Mar 7 2011: Exactly! Every time someone gets up on the stage, they are promoting something. They're trying to spread something they think is a great idea.

        I eat a pretty healthy diet, rarely use Pepsi's products, and their existence as a corporation doesn't bother me at all. I do very occasionally drink that black fizzy stuff, and appreciate having it available. So for me personally, Pepsi is 'a good thing'.

        Even if it's seen as a bad thing overall, that doesn't mean nobody is entitled to stand up and talk about the other side of the coin. Everyone hates marketers, but Rory Sutherland and Seth Godin speak at TED. Everyone used to hate Bill Gates, but look at him now. Madeline Albright has been reviled by many, so has Al Gore, and Craig Venter has upset a lot of people. We can't just ban people from speaking because of our own points of view.

        We have to listen, and look beyond what we already know about these people or their organisations. There is always more to know, just as we also have to be more critical in the way we listen to talks. I'm glad to see people questioning speaker choices and messages, it means we're paying attention to what's going on. If the speakers know that, then it forces them to get with the program. Standing on that stage may push speakers to think more deeply about how they do business.

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