WWF-Canada Blog:

The power of partnerships

WWF is one of Coke’s sustainability partners. Over the past few years, Coca-Cola has supported WWF’s Arctic conservation work, including on research, education and awareness raising about polar bears. This year, the public profile has ramped up substantially with the Arctic Home campaign. Coke cans turning white and now red with polar bears on them, a matching fundraising campaign, full-fledged advertising, movie trailers, social media buzz and WWF’s polar bear-themed symbolic specie’s adoptions are just a few of the activities related with this campaign. It’s a dizzying amount of material.

Before I attended this event I have to admit I felt the marketing materials were in overdrive and not showing the full value for conservation of this partnership. I could no longer see beyond the obvious goals of Coke selling more Coke and WWF selling more fuzzy polar bear symbolic adoption kits.

(c) WWF-Canada

Two things changed my perspective. One was WWF CEO Gerald Butts’ speech and the other was a 5- minute preview of a new IMAX McGillivray Films “To the Arctic” polar bear documentary, supported by Coke and soon to be released in theaters.

First the speech. I’ve heard Gerald speak about our campaigns before but this time his words brought the Arctic campaign ‘home’ to me.  The essence was that if you want to change the global supply chain and mobilize consumers to make a difference you have to work with companies like Coca-Cola. Coke is the number one purchaser of sugar cane, number one purchaser of aluminum and number two purchaser of glass in the world. And as Rosemary Thompson, MC of the event said: ‘If you’re going to grow, create community, and make a difference, partnerships and not government funding are going to make that happen’. She’s right, with every government in the world tightening their belts, working with businesses is an essential accelerator of this global change.

Second, the movie. I’ve never seen such intimate portrayals of polar bears before and it really tugged at my emotions. To think that our actions and habits are directly contributing to their decline and suffering seemed tragic and sad. It is remarkable that footage from this film was used in the Coke Arctic Home campaign ads. Such a big difference from the animated versions of bears and penguins drinking soda from last years’ holiday campaigns. The film is all about climate change and the challenge these bears have to survive. Yes, this is exactly the reaction the filmmakers were hoping for and it worked. And no, my reacting isn’t about anthropomorphizing or about them being cute and cuddly looking. And I’m not naïve in thinking northerners don’t hunt and eat polar bears, that’s an important part of their culture and livelihood. It’s more about realizing the link and connection between my own actions and the world around me.

I’m converted. The ‘power of partnerships’ seems to be one way we can change the world.