Posted by keith on April 12th, 2009
I can still hear the silence, and feel the stares in the back of my neck, as I walked towards the exit door during Richard Reed’s presentation — a presentation that he thought would paint him as the capitalist saviour of the planet — stung by a comment that told me, ever so clearly, that Innocent Drinks were no better than any other profit-making entity. They just had the fingerprints of the over-eager, light-green glitterati over their bottles: a slavering mob of idiots who thought, and still think, that the solution to ecological collapse lies in the exchange of capital.
Innocent drinks have sold a stake in their business for £30million (about $45m) to Coca Cola:
Innocent, the defiantly non-corporate maker of fruit smoothies, juices and veg pots, has finally lost its innocence after selling a stake to US giant Coca-Cola for £30m.
Innocent, which markets itself as eco-friendly and distributes drinks in vans made to look like cows, has sold a minority stake of between 10% and 20% to Coca-Cola in order to raise funds so it can expand into Europe.
The sale of the stake marks a watershed moment for the 10-year-old company as it becomes the latest high profile success story to sell-up to a corporate giant.
Innocent joins alumni which include UK sandwich chain Pret a Manger, which sold a minority stake to McDonald’s, ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, which sold up to Unilever, and Cadbury, which took over trendy organic chocolate company Green & Black’s.
I have nothing to add beyond what I wrote back in November 2007, following my exit from Mr Reed’s appropriately smooth presentation — an article that included the words “Coca Cola”:
Ok, being uber-cool in jeans, t-shirt and Ugg boots on a stage in front of 300 environmentalists of varying shades is not, in itself, reason to have someone walk out on you, but I did give it at least 2 minutes before I left. Here’s why.
I had spent a day and a half at the 2007 Be The Change conference in London, listening to some brilliant talks from David Wasdell, Rob Hopkins and Stewart Wallis among others; some of the talks made me hopeful, others made me angry – these were the good ones.
Late in the morning Richard Reed of Innocent Drinks (no, you can’t have a link) stepped out on the stage in the above accoutrements, and started what was essentialy an advertising spiel about himself and the company. Now don’t forget that there were some pretty hard-core anti-corporate people in here, so he would not have been expected to approach his subject in the same way as he would if, say, he was speaking in front of a Corporate “Social Responsibility” (sic.) seminar. He obviously forgot this, and less than two minutes in he presented a slide which said:
Capitalism Has Won
This is a good thing.
Bizarrely, Innocent Drinks are actually a pretty good company as far as companies go, apart from the fact that they sell millions of drinks in small containers. Ok, they are one of the better companies that sell drinks in small containers. Coca Cola are shit. Just so you know where I am coming from.
I saw a shade of pink when I saw that slide. Firstly, capitalism hasn’t “won”, unless you consider “winning” to be sweeping all before it in a toxic cloud and burning the planet as it goes leaving us in the kind of mess that means any future the planet has will probably not involve arcane calculations involving interest rates and margin calls. Second, and for the reasons I have stated, that is not “a good thing”.
Then Richard Reed of Innocent Drinks said:
“If it wasn’t for capitalism we’d probably still be living in mud huts”
This is the kind of person that some environmentalists think is a good guy. So, Mr Reed, which is better in the long run: living in a mud hut (yurt, tipi, stone and turf house or any other low impact dwelling) that is highly sustainable with a minute impact on the environment; or living in a typical industrial society dwelling which in your case probably has a number of cars, a great deal of lighting and appliances, carbon dioxide spewing concrete, perhaps a patio, a swimming pool even, and of course air conditioning?
“we’d probably still be living in mud huts”
Yeh, right on! Why not have a pop at the tribes who live rich, sustainable lives. Their lives are appalling aren’t they? Well, they are now we’ve introduced disease to their homelands. Oh, and convinced them they they need material wealth in order to be happy. And then thrown them out of their homelands because this great capitalist society wanted the wealth buried beneath their feet. And then denied them any rights.
“living in mud huts”
I have friends who live in one-room shacks made from recycled timber. They share things and have communal living spaces, and live in touch with their natural surroundings which they are trying to protect. They are some of the happiest people I know.
I was sitting in the front row. I saw red. I stood up, tutted loudly then stamped my way to the back and walked through the doors.