Acton Institute Powerblog

Religious Activists Wage War on Oreos, Triscuits, and Ritz Crackers

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Every so often your writer is reduced to scratching his head bemusedly at what leftist religious shareholder activists deem worthy of prioritization. Whether based on religious faith or not, it always seemed to me shareholders’ concerns should be maximization of return on investments rather than reshaping the world into a progressive utopia.

Yet here we have the religious shareholder activists of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Boston Common Asset Management celebrating a victory that their press release practically equates with alleviating world poverty, hunger and disease. Yes, dear readers, ICCR and BCAM successfully convinced Mondelez International Inc. – the corporate bogeyman responsible for such crimes against humanity as the delicious snack foods Oreos, Cadbury, Ritz Crackers and Triscuits – to drop all advertising aimed at children under 12 years old:

While the company had a policy in place that prohibited any advertising to children under six, and called for any advertising to children 6-11 to meet specific nutritional criteria, the new policy will go even further. According to Mondelez’ website:

We decided to further strengthen our Marketing to Children Policy. Starting January 1, 2016 we will no longer advertise our products directly to children under age 12, irrespective of the product’s nutritional profile. We will focus all advertising efforts towards the parents and adults, giving them information and choices to help make mindful snacking decisions for themselves and their families. Our brands are in the process of transitioning their marketing campaigns.

Boy howdy, the global sigh of relief rushes at me like the sound of a whirlwind. However, the ICCR and BCAM busy-bodies aren’t quite finished preening:

ICCR members have been in dialogue with the company, advocating for stricter policies that will shield kids in the 6-11 age group from direct ads for snack foods and products that may compromise children’s nutrition. Child-directed advertising for snack foods, sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods has been linked to the epidemic of childhood obesity, as children are considered especially vulnerable to these advertising messages.
The shareholders believe the new policy sets the industry standard for responsible marketing to youth that will result in healthier food choices for children and importantly, establishes a model for other food companies to follow.

Said Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, “Mondelez has shown us that it understands the risks some of these products pose for children’s health and is putting the right safeguards in place to ensure that children aren’t being directly targeted with ads that feature the ‘junk foods’ known to cause obesity and other health problems.”

Readers will note the weasely text of Mondelez – “irrespective of the nutritional profile” – and ICCR’s claim a link exists between advertising and childhood obesity that might “compromise children’s nutrition.” Good grief, and too bad Mondelez found it necessary to cave to ICCR and BCAM hooey at the expense of shareholders who reasonably expect a major international company to put them first rather than wasting time and precious corporate resources on such silliness.

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Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. Most recently, he was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2007 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past three years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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