Things Go Better in Africa

By March 16, 2007General

Remarkable what kind of good works can be accomplished thanks to the profits that flow from selling high-quality products to the consumer. Coca Cola — the great American manufacturer with a global reach — is engaged in clean-water distribution projects that are dramatically improving people’s lives. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Hoping to restore some of the goodwill that made its flagship product a global icon, Coca-Cola Co. has gone on a clean-water kick in the developing world.

In Kenya, where more than half of the rural population has no access to clean water, the Atlanta beverage giant brought water-purification systems, storage urns, and hygiene lessons to 45 schools in a poor western province. Children learn how to use a chlorine-based solution to kill diseases that come from contaminated, muddy pools or remote wells — and are taught to teach their parents.

In Mali, Coke is helping extend municipal water taps beyond the country’s capital of Bamako. In India, where the company has been accused of draining water from poor communities for its own use, the company is building rainwater-harvesting structures to help alleviate chronic water shortages. Coke’s bottlers are also implementing water-efficiency measures.

Not to ignore Pepsi and other U.S. companies, either.

PepsiCo Inc., which is also battling criticism over water use in India, gathers rainwater in excavated lakes and ponds and on rooftops of its bottling plants there. The company also sponsors community water projects in India; in China, a PepsiCo program called Mother Water Cellars helps people in arid parts of the country to capture and store water. Safe Water Network, a consortium of 10 corporate leaders that includes Pepsi Chairman Steve Reinemund, is testing portable water-purification technology.

Sure, a significant PR element accompanies these humanitarian projects, but the end result is a healthier, better life for many people. (And, you know, people enjoy drinking soft drinks.) It’s a great story, one of a sense of corporate responsibility writ large.

(Hat tip: Powerline)