Last Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bono and Bobby Shriver, a Santa Monica City Councilman, announced the formation of a new company, Product RED, which they described as “an economic initiative designed to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” American Express is a founding partner of the new venture and Converse, Gap and Giorgio Armani are launch partners. Each has designed products that will bear the RED trademark and will be available this spring. Shriver, CEO of Product RED, said, “This is a long term initiative designed for sustainability. RED partners expect that they will broaden their own customer base and increase loyalty in a manner that delivers a sustainable revenue stream to both the company and the Global Fund.”The private sector currently contributes less than 1 percent of the Global Fund’s needs. Shriver and Bono believe this initiative will generate “a new income stream into the Fund.”“RED is a 21st century idea…these companies are lending their creativity and financial firepower to the Global Fund’s fight against AIDS in Africa, the greatest health crisis in 600 years. I think doing the RED thing, doing good, will turn out to be good business for them,” Bono said. A portion of profits from the sale of RED products will support Global Fund-financed programs that are designed to improve the lives of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. One such program in Rwanda has increased the number of people receiving treatments for HIV/AIDS ten-fold in two years. “Product RED is a breakthrough in corporate and consumer engagement for the greatest global crisis of our time – the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Professor Richard Feachem, Executive Director of the Fund. “RED can make a substantial contribution to financing the massive scale up of prevention, testing, treatment and care that are desperately needed in Africa.”President Nelson Mandela added, “We must all come together in supporting the Global Fund and the fight against AIDS. RED carries the promise of capturing the world’s attention to do just that and I applaud RED and its partners for their vision and commitment.”American Express has developed a RED credit card that will offer free annual membership. A minimum of 1 percent on all eligible spending will be paid directly to The Global Fund on the Card member’s behalf. Spending above £5000 per year will trigger an increase of 1.25 percent on all spending above that amount.The inaugural Converse RED Collection is the Chuck Taylor All Star mudcloth shoe designed by Giles Deacon. He was inspired by Nakunte Diarra, a renowned mudcloth artist and storyteller from Mali, to use the mud-dyed cloth of the Bamana people of Mali.The Gap is developing a special collection of items that will be sold initially in the UK and US. The first piece in the collection is a t-shirt. The African-made vintage-style t-shirt will come in red, as well as a range of other colors and will be available in UK stores this spring. A larger collection will be launched in the fall –featuring classic Gap items with special details inspired by RED.Giorgio Armani’s first RED product will be wrap-around sun glasses embossed with the Emporio Armani RED logo. They will be available in April. In addition, Giorgio Armani will create a complete Emporio Armani RED capsule collection for women and men, including clothing, accessories, fragrances, watches, eyewear and jewelry later in 2006.Bono and Shriver said it had taken them three years to get Project Red up and going, as companies did not readily accept the premise that branding products as helping Africa or battling AIDS would be good for business. They don’t see it as corporate charity. “We don’t want this to be altruistic,” Shriver said. “It has to be commercially sustainable.”The trademark Product RED brand is owned by Bono and Shriver. Some of the information in this story came from the Financial Times.
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