Why are these children smiling? Is it because they’re excited at the prospect of tasting the sweetness of Monsanto’s generosity through its most recent philanthropic activity – in cooperation with Room to Read? Naw, it’s just a file photo, but you get the idea. Vietnamese children, smiling faces, Monsanto’s latest charitable gesture in a country devastated by one of its signature products, Agent Orange. Flashbacks to that classic 1974 dramatic thriller, The Parallax View.
This is also the company that is challenging the food sovereignty of Vietnam and many other countries with the introduction of highly controversial genetically modified crops. To date, Monsanto, which had 2013 revenue of $15 billion, has invested a grand total of $220,000 (70k + 150k) in scholarships for students at the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (check it out my introduction to an article entitled The Audacity of Monsanto & the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture by Chuck Palazzo) and now this program.
Like I said in the aforementioned post, Monsanto execs must be smiling like a Cheshire cat at how easy it is to buy access and influence in a country that was once on the receiving end of one of its most infamous products and is now a living laboratory for genetically modified corn to be used for food and animal feed.
Not All Money is Created Equal
This is what I described in that previous post about the scholarship program as the Trojan horse approach to improving the bottom line, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, according to one media reference. I once advised a well-known student organization that they should be careful who they take money from in the form of corporate sponsorship. One example was an organization that promotes the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products. The problem is most nonprofits never met a donor whose money they weren’t happy to take. The moral of the story is choose carefully and ethically, when it comes to sponsorship. Consider the source.
The Ultimate Expression of Corporate Social Responsibility
The ultimate corporate responsibility for companies like Monsanto, Dow and Diamond Shamrock would be to take responsibility – in partnership with their client back in the day, the US government – by creating a superfund, substantially more than the token 220k donated thus far, to assist with clean-up efforts and to help alleviate the suffering of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations of Vietnamese affected by dioxin poisoning.