Foreign Policy Blogs


(Product) RED has now raised $50 million dollars from the sale of specially-branded, socially-conscious merchandise. This money has gone to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tubercuosis, and Malaria to help with their projects in Rwanda, Swaziland, and Ghana. If you haven't given (RED) a look, you should, because it's an interesting idea. Yes, the parantheses are annoying, but the project's goals make up for it. The idea is to raise money by giving consumer's the option of buying something they were going to buy anyway, but instead of showing brand loyalty for no good reason, they should show brand loyalty because the money goes to a good cause.

Did (RED) come up with this idea? Of course not. Newman's Own has been doing it for 25 years, and I doubt they were the first. But (RED) is expanding the concept in at least two ways:

First, (RED) is trying to start a revolution. Newman's Own wants to benefit some charities while selling you some pretty good salad dressing. (RED) wants to change the way you shop. They want you to always have the option of buying something that gives back.

Second, (RED) is putting a lot of effort into strengthening the Global Fund's brand. Do you know what charities Newman's Own supports? Neither do I, and I just spent five minutes reading their website. (RED) wants consumers to know what they are supporting, and for that consciousness to be a driving factor in their purchases.

Both of these are good things. Personally I see more potential in the second, because so far we aren't talking about a lot of money. (RED) raised $50 million in 20 months. That's fantastic, but even if they had raised that in 12 months it wouldn't get them into the top 10 national governments donating to the Global Fund in 2007 (look for the linked Excel file on the left). The US alone gave over $500 million.

It's going to take a while for consumer power to be a driving force in the funding of HIV/AIDS control around the world. But by improving the Global Fund's brand – making people aware of it and public support it – (RED) might be able to help keep political support for the Global Fund high. Keeping governmental support for foreign aid high would be a major contribution, one that would far outweigh (RED)'s direct financial contribution.



Kevin Dean

Kevin Dean is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in international conflict management and humanitarian emergencies at Georgetown University. Before returning to school in Fall 2006, he spent six years working in the former Soviet Union - most of that time spent in Central Asia. He has managed a diverse range of international development programs for the US State Department and USAID. He has also consulted for several UN agencies and international NGOs, and is fluent in Russian. Kevin is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and studied Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Iowa.