We had a presentation at work today about the malignant, undead '(Red)' phenomenon. For the fortunate people who aren't acquainted with this scheme, it pretty much revolves around a bunch of big companies offering so-called 'Red' products. You buy them, says the 'manifesto', and some of the money goes to help AIDS in Africa (or breast cancer, or tuberculosis, or whatever cause Paris Hilton has learned to spell this week).
I've been skeptical of this thing since day one, mostly because it's fortified with 107 different kinds of corporate and celebrity self-righteousness, and seems more concerned with making people feel like they're John D. Rockefeller than actually helping anyone with AIDS. Which is just a long way of saying that Bono is involved.
Luckily I work at a human rights institution, where we have teams of people that exist to call bullshit on condescending marketing behemoths like this. Some of the researchers reported this morning that, after a year in operation with over 100 companies (Apple, Nike, Motorola and other gracious, publicly traded souls) the program has raised 20 million dollars. Roughly equivalent to what Nike spends on non-dairy creamer every year.
In addition to its monumental irrelevance, the fund is actually harming human rights elsewhere in the world. You know that (red) T-shirt that you felt really good about spending your (green) on? It was most likely made in a sweatshop somewhere in Vietnam. And The Gap made a huge profit off of it. All the signatory companies, in fact, are posting great returns on this whole thing.
So next time someone boasts about their newfound crimson philanthropy, remind them that they would have been better off just giving their money to the nearest sign-bearing homeless person. At least he wouldn't pay Bono with it.