WASHINGTON – Buying a $60 pair of customized Converse shoes or getting a special-edition iPod nano is one way people can help fight AIDS in Africa. In a new program,six retailers are giving a percentage of sales of certain products to the cause.
Created by Irish band U2 leader singer Bono and Bobby Shriver,a Santa Monica,Calif.,city council member,(PRODUCT) RED aims to guarantee a continuous flow of money from private businesses to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,Tuberculosis and Malaria.
So far,the program has donated more than $10 million to the Global Fund,a Swiss-based nonprofit dedicated to eradicating the three diseases.
(PRODUCT)RED is licensed to business partners who design (RED) products,as they are known. The licensees include Gap,Giorgio Armani,Converse,Motorola,American Express and Apple,which give a portion of the special product sales to the Global Fund.
“We're not asking anyone for a donation or for them to change their behavior. People buy things every day. But now,when they buy (PRODUCT) RED,they will look good and do good – and that's good business,” said Shriver,in a press release launching the program.
(RED) is a long-term initiative,and partners have made a five-year commitment to deliver special products under the (PRODUCT) RED license.
(RED) hit the United Sates Oct. 13,offering consumers the chance to get (RED)-branded products both online and directly from retailers' boutiques and stores. The range of price and variety goes from a $10 leather bracelet from Gap,to a $228 jacket from Giorgio Armani. In keeping with the program's name,many of them are red.
A Motorola MOTORAZR red cell phone is another of the products,as is a $200 iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED special edition.
“You buy (RED) stuff. We get the money,buy the pills and distribute them,” the (RED) manifesto says.
The Global Fund relies on private-public sector partnerships to finance health services in communities affected by AIDS,tuberculosis and malaria.
According to the organization,since its creation in 2002,governments have contributed $4.9 billion,while private businesses have granted $5 million.
Since it was launched in the United Kingdom early this year,(RED) has raised more than $10 million,granted to programs in Swaziland and Rwanda focusing on women and children.
Media companies have also taken part. The British newspaper The Independent channeled 50 percent of the sales of (RED) editions to the Global Fund. The publications' special issues featured Bono and designer Giorgio Armani as guest editors and included articles by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and actors George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio.
MTV networks,the first U.S. (RED) media partner,has committed to show the products and spread information about AIDS awareness among the networks' channels,beginning with VH1.
“How we do business is allowing us to invest in Africa in a meaningful way and broaden our social responsibility commitment,” said Erica Archambault,spokeswoman for Gap Inc.
Archambault highlighted that Gap has been working with the African community for a decade and is selling a T-shirt produced in Lesotho from African cotton as a further investment in the region.
“People read about it,they talk about it,but sometimes they do nothing,so it's an easier way for people to contribute for a cause that otherwise they would not,” Archambault said.
“We are also trying to educate people as they shop,” added.
Companies have different marketing strategies for the program. Gap and Giorgio Armani are using a “shop within a shop” to display the (RED)-branded products in their stores.
Giorgio Armani's main contribution is the Red Capsule Collection,a men's and women's clothing and accessory collection,part of the Emporio Armani catalogue. The small collection is less expensive than most other things in the stores,a company representative said.
For example,Red Capsule Collection products include a $58 mobile phone clip,a $148 sweatshirt and a $198 belt.
Bono and Shriver,a member of the Kennedy family,have previously joint efforts to foster the development of the African community,when they created Debt,AIDS,Trade Africa,an organization that aims to combat and foster response to poverty in Africa.