The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) has issued a paper titled “Organizations That Care About Health Should Play No Part in the Soft Drink Industry’s Effort to Rehabilitate Its Public Image.” The paper discusses how soft drink makers have responded to sagging sales by engaging in corporate social responsibility campaigns that involve “cause-marketing,” through which a corporation collaborates with a nonprofit, generally through online social networking. As an example, the June 20, 2011, paper describes the “Pepsi Refresh Project” “whereby members of the public submit ideas with a funding request and vote on whether or not to fund the concept.” PepsiCo has apparently pledged $20 million to the campaign, whose underlying goal, according to the PHAI paper, “is to sell more Pepsi products.”

PHAI contends that “emerging soft drink industry corporate social responsibility efforts that use cause-marketing and public relations tactics require special attention.” The institute concludes that organizations which care about health “should establish a policy that identifies and distinguishes between traditional business relationships, corporate philanthropy and cause-marketing and should commit to not participate in cause-marketing campaigns that promote products, such as sugary drinks, that pose a public health threat.” PHAI is a Boston-based legal research center that focuses on public health law including tobacco control and obesity-related issues.