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An incredible coincidence has happened, involving this lovely woman – and it might even save some children’s lives.
A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to blogging an idea of how Coca Cola could save lives by using their distribution muscle in developing countries.
Since then I have been trying to get through to Coca Cola with some success. I got an email reply from their CSR people (see image). Unfortunately, it’s very defensive and points out all the good work they are doing already. I followed up the email with a call to Etlyn Thomas (you could call her too!). She was very nice (and so was I!). I made the point that I was not critisising Coca Cola in anyway. I was simply suggesting how they might build on the good work they are already doing in a way that would save lives and greatly enhance the Coca Cola brand.
Encouragingly, Etlyn said she had escalated the suggestion to someone more senior in the CSR department.
In the meantime – and this is the exciting bit – Annie Lennox, on the 11/5/08 edition of Desert Island Discs (repeated today) seemed to be on exactly the same wavelength. She pointed out that we live in a time when we can distribute Coca Cola to all corners of the World but children still die, usually of dehydration. (If you have a recording, it’s right at the end, around the 42 minute mark). I’m going to write to Annie next.
I also tried to get this idea debated on IPM on 10/5/08 and they said they’d call Coca Cola. I don’t know if they did. I’ve followed this up today. I’ve also followed up my call to Etlyn with this:
Thanks for speaking with me on the phone about the dehydration salts distribution idea. Did you hear Annie Lennox on Desert Islands Disks? She said "We live in age where we can get Coca Cola to all corners of the world but where children die, usually of dehydration." I’m going to write to Annie but would also like to speak to the person you escalated my idea to if that was possible. My mobile number is 07932 107109. I hope to hear from you again soon.
If you’ve got this far, you’re interested in this too! Why not pick the phone up to Etlyn yourself or register and comment on the IPM Blog.
I’ve feeling we might just get through!
What a fantastic idea Simon, I’ll be straight onto the IPM blog to say so!
Brilliant work, Simon, let’s push this as far as we can!
It’s so blindingly simply obvious really isn’t it !
Hope this one goes all the way and gets some action.
Simon – we definitely need to make a big deal of your idea at 2gether08 🙂
Thanks Steve. I haven’t really engaged with what 2gether08 is. I will do some research.
The other positive angle of this is the educational one. Many parents, and I’d guess it would be the large majority, in remote areas of the World will not know what rehydration salts are or what they do. But most (again the large majority) will know what Coca Cola is.
When these salts start arriving in Coca Cola crates it will prompt questions and observations: “This isn’t Coke!”; “What’s this?”. Initially the retailers may not know either and they will ask the distributors who will have been trained.
Simon – can you drop me an email at iPM@bbc.co.uk
This is a very good idea – and using the logistics capacity of large companies (especially warehousing and trucking) could be very useful in times of disaster – but it would only be a small part of any solution. Coca-cola’s distribution network depends upon infrastructure like roads, railways etc being in place. After a disaster, these are often destroyed (I wonder if coca-cola kept distributing in New Orleans after the hurricane – I’d be interested to know?). The charities and organisations that respond to disasters are very good at logistics already – but they often have to rebuild all the roads first.
By the way, it’s worth nothing that sugary soft drinks are pretty good rehydration solutions anyway (add a pinch of salt and you’ve got everything you have in a normal rehydration solution).
Thanks for this Tom. iPM linked the feature to the Burmese disaster just make it topical. Kids die of dehydration, day in, day out, irrespective of disasters.
Your note about Cola Cola being good it its own right is interesting. Nand Wadhwani who runs the Rehydration Project in India calls it the ‘most significant rehydrator in India’.
The trouble is it costs money. Ideally the rehydration salts would be free (although I’m sure they’d end up being sold in some places even if they were supposed to be free!).