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Image:(NBC News – 2/8/14)

With another exciting Olympic Games underway, there are a thousand story lines emerging from every angle. One of particular interest to us, and the focus of today’s post, touches a bit on CSR, marketing, and ethical practices for global companies.

We all know how intertwined business and ethics are these days – there is very little companies can hide or attempt to shield from the public with the rise of citizen journalism and 24/7 news cycles. Besides the fact, research shows again and again: corporations that promote CSR initiatives, indeed, even make them part of top line strategy, see increases in positive perception, translating to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

So it is particularly interesting to see huge global companies like Coke and McDonald’s, among others, navigate these waters when political leanings are so vastly different. Example – the strict anti-gay laws in Russia, where the two companies are large corporate sponsors of the Games.
Coke was quick to point out its Super Bowl ad as defense of its focus on global diversity. If you didn’t catch that ad, you can watch it here –

For Coke And McDonald’s, Ignoring The Power Of Social Media To Disrupt Means No Medals In Sochi

Coke was quick to point out its Super Bowl ad as defense of its focus on global diversity. If you didn’t catch that ad, you can watch it here –

Still, it begs the question – how does a company do business, in line with its core values, ethical standards, and mission when the world is not homogeneous?

Put on your CEO/CMO hat and use the following prompts to get a good discussion going.

1. You have an opportunity to sponsor the Olympic Games but know the political and social climate does not align with your company’s values. Do you invest in the opportunity? Why or why not? What factors did you consider in arriving at your decision?

2. Now, suppose you are doing business in a country (successfully and profitably) where certain environmental factors are conspiring to destabilize the country. A new authority is assuming power that begins to implement changes that run counter to your company’s CSR. What role should your company play, if any? (A great example of how one company dealt with this kind of situation – though not very well, some might say – is the Chiquita company in Colombia)