Monday, July 11, 2005


Being a pro-business blog, I'm assuming that most CH readers will agree with what I have to say, but I'll put it out there anyway.

There is an article in today's Toronto Star talking about corporate sponsorships for local parks on Centre Island (sorry folks, its not online). Summary: through corporate partnerships, the City of Toronto was able to create a $3 million park and playground area for kids.

Is this a bad thing?

Obviously, to me, its not. In times of tight budgets, limited funds and decaying facilities, I think that corporate sponsorships and partnership are essential if we want to keep our quality of life here in Canada and around the world.

But more importantly, isn't this what we as citizens should be expecting (and encouraging) from corporations? Aren't these kind of acitivities what makes a "good corporate citizen"?

Look at Home Depot. If you go to their corporate sponsorship webpage, you will see they have a significant philanthropic effort in place. The describe their key focuses below:

"Community efforts focus on four key areas: building and refurbishing playgrounds; ensuring the safety and accessibility of community gathering spaces, building and refurbishing affordable and transitional housing; preparing communities for emergencies."

On specific projects, I think they have a pretty good record on giving back to the community:

In fact, on that last point I can personally testify that they do practice that policy. A wood that my wife and I wanted to sue for our hardwood floor was discontinued for use at Home Depot because it was revealed that the company that supplied it was getting it from an "old forest" area in China.

Not everyone agrees. Here is Toronto, the Public Space Committee feels that public space should never be "sold". Their spokesperson stated in the article that even if (especially if) the company doesn't receive naming rights, or a plaque is not put up, etc, that the corporation will "want something in return" and that compromises the City in question.

Now, corporate sponsorship can go too far. From the Centre for Commercial-Free Public Education:

"AShell Oil video teaches students that the way to experience nature is to drive there - stopping to fuel up your Jeep at a Shell gas station on the way. The Shell logo appears on the screen at intervals throughout the video."

Not good.

For me, I think the line is drawn when corporations start to use sponsorships as an active marketing tool (i.e. commercials on education TV programs in schools), rather than a passive (from a commercial sense) acknowledgement of their efforts to assist the community (i.e. a plaque in a park).

However, while I agree with creating policies on corproate sponsorships, I think the idea that allowing corporate sponsorhip equates to giving corporations free reign to do what they please in public areas, schools, city facilities, etc, is bunk.

Rather, I think we need to encourage businesses to directly give something back to the community they operate in.

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