The Great Hannah Montana Banana Debate

Over at Ethical Consumption, Ruchira Shah offers a robust rebuttal to my endorsement of Hannah Montana bananas. An excerpt:

Now, not that I don't love children eating healthier food, but ... really? Is this really what passes for CSR these days?

Corporate Social Responsibility shouldn't just be about producing food that is healthier for you than McDonalds. CSR should also be about the impact on the planet, and the impact on the laborers who produce those goods. I know that we should be applauding baby steps by corporations to become more ethical, but frankly, I don't see any ethics here. What I see is a company who decided to get out of the junk food business because it was damaging and unprofitable, and instead decided to get into the healthy food business because it was more profitable and less damaging.

There's nothing I love more than celebrity branded fruit products a vibrant conversation, so first off, I want to Ruchira say thanks a bunch for jumping in!

But yes, that's what passes for CSR these days . . . or should if we want to be more effective in promoting social good.

While I appreciate Ruchira's zeal for the cause, the fact is that doing good comes in many different varieties, each of which carries its own compromises. We can each draw our own preferred lines, but by dismissing social benefit that doesn't meet our own particular standard of higher virtue we risk marginalizing ourselves as puritanical scolds.

This is especially true in the midst of a financial crisis, when there's a natural tendency to sacrifice Whole Foods for A&P. If a celebrity brand gets kids to choose an apple over a Fruit Roll-up--even if the apple isn't, gasp, certified fair trade--the celebrity brand is something I'm going to study and adapt. Sure, we could build walls to safeguard our own moral superiority, but we do better to learn from social value added wherever it may come, including--if not especially--such unlikely places as Hannah Montana bananas.