In my previous blog post, I gave a brief overview and history of the (RED) campaign and identified areas of improvement for the campaign. To follow up, I have highlighted and expanded on my previous recommendations with these strategy solutions in creating an effective CSR framework for (RED):
1. Improve transparency
Problem: RED is an aid-financing program that relies on the Global Fund to deliver antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to Africa. However, there is no data on how much each retail partner contributes to the overall donation to the Global Fund, what percentage of RED profits are given to the Fund, and how many ARVs purchased from the RED funds are delivered to Africa. Moreover, there is no transparency on which AIDS organizations receive the ARVs and how many people receive them.
Solution: I posit that in order for RED to become a legitimate AIDS program, they must have transparency on these issues to show civil society that the project is a worthwhile cause to participate in.
2. Improve local ownership
Problem: Project RED has a top down approach to HIV/AIDS in Africa. The framework, partnerships, products and advertisements were all created without consultation from HIV/AIDS victims or local stakeholders from Africa. This portrays the problem of AIDS as seen from the Western perspective, and does not take into account the actual needs or opinions of the people the Project aims to help.
Solution: I believe that the project needs to take a bottom up approach and consult with local AIDS organizations and speak with HIV/AIDS victims in Africa to find more effective solutions to the epidemic and strengthen legitimacy on the issue.
3. Find a long term solution to HIV/AIDS
Problem: RED only focuses on providing ARVs to HIV/AIDS victims in Africa. In their sales and marketing campaigns, the Project and its partners correlate each RED product with the number of ARV pills they can provide. However, providing ARVs to HIV/AIDS victims is an insufficient solution to the epidemic. This simplifies the problem into an economic issue that can be fixed by just buying more products (to provide more pills), when in fact, other factors and issues that affect people with AIDS are neglected. Moreover, it is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Solution: Project RED needs to start looking for and funding long-term solutions to HIV/AIDS in Africa that, in fact, may be more effective than its current impact model. For example, they can start funding information campaigns in the region, which can raise awareness on the disease, its devastating effects to the community, and ways to prevent the spread of the infection. Another option would be to work with other organizations to fund projects that would strengthen the healthcare systems in the region.
4. Define CSR guidelines for their Partners
Problem: Project RED lacks CSR standards and guidelines for their retail partners.
Solution: In order to become a legitimate and effective CSR framework, the Project needs to ensure that the retailers share the same standards for social responsibility.
5. Develop an annual report
Problem: The lack of transparency in RED’s financial statements and overall operations makes it easy for critics to question RED’s effectiveness and sustainability. Moreover, the use of celebrities and fashion brands in the framework give an impression of ‘trendiness’ to the project. This can negatively impact the long-term viability of Project RED.
Solution: To avoid the ‘trendiness’ associated with RED, the organization should publish an annual report specifying what the project contributed on the field and what the organization accomplished in fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Overall, I believe that Project RED can become a catalyst for other private development initiatives to tackle global problems. However, in order for RED to become a truly effective private aid initiative, the founders and organizers should take into account the solutions I suggested above. Implementing the simplest solution of publishing an annual report, can significantly improve the project’s overall problems of transparency, accountability, legitimacy and sustainability of the project without significant capital costs.
More importantly, in this hypercompetitive information economy, consumers have many other charitable options to consider, and can demand more transparency and accountability from these initiatives and organizations. I believe RED can become a formidable alternative to private giving as soon as they become more transparent in their operations and sustain the consumers’ trust.