Last week, we posed this question to our audience: When do charitable partnerships cross the line?
The question came in light of a recent alliance between the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Heineken. The beer giant is offering its communications and logistics expertise to help with the delivery of health-care supplies in markets where Heineken already has an extensive distribution system.
A coalition of global health organizations, many of whom focus on alcohol and drug abuse, are condemning the partnership. Health advocates say alcohol is a major risk factor for the spread of HIV and TB.
Dozens of readers shared their thoughts in our online form and Twitter.
Here’s a roundup of responses, which have been edited for length and clarity.
The need is urgent enough.
“The need to eradicate HIV and malaria and TB is urgent enough to allow it. Heineken is there, so they might as well bring some good to the people in those areas.” -Laura Orimo
It’s a great way to give back.
“Charitable partnerships are a great way for alcohol companies to give back to the countries and communities that buy their products. Alcoholic beverages are enjoyed by many in moderation. Buying locally sourced ingredients and giving to charities benefits people who are suffering around the world.” -Bailey Dangora, social studies teacher, New Hampshire
Let them help.
“If anyone is willing to help, I say let them. Heineken will sell beer in Africa regardless of their agreement with any charitable organizations. Allowing them to assist is a good thing.” -Gary Codding, Connecticut
Way over the line.
“Partnerships with companies producing hazardous products are inappropriate. They must be judged in terms of conflict of interest. Alcohol corporations rely on alcohol for their sales and profits.
Alcohol is increasingly recognized as a threat to global health, with 3.3 million deaths every year. The harm it causes to people to other than the drinker (like traffic accidents or violence) is only just beginning to be counted. Stakes are high for alcohol corporations and this is why partnerships happen. Way over the line!” – Sally Casswell, a health professor and alcohol researcher at Massey University, New Zealand
“Partnerships between corporations and development institutions are always tricky. Sustainable development goals, like long-term well-being, are difficult to balance with companies that have short-term profit as a priority or sell consumer products with negative side effects, like sugar and alcohol.” – Tobias Denskus, founder of the global development blog Aidnography, Sweden
“For the Global Fund to end HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, alcohol use must decrease. The case of Heineken in Ivory Coast shows how the company is engaging in aggressive marketing practices, which in turn drives alcohol consumption and harm.
For the beer giant, this is a minor investment with a huge return. The partnership disguises Heineken’s harmful impact on societies, provides branding opportunities and gives [the company] access to [global health] decision-makers.
These reasons make the partnership incompatible. The Global Fund should stay away from such companies.” – Maik Dünnbier, director of strategy and advocacy at IOGT International, a group that fights against alcohol and drug harm, Sweden
Thank you to everyone who shared their views on the topic.