Last night, I attended the 5th annual Volvo for Life Awards ceremony at Cipriani’s at 42nd Street. Luminaries, including Benjamin Bratt, Hank Aaron, and Susan Sarandon, interlopers, and Volvo executives were on hand to salute everyday people who lived double lives at special heroes.
Someone there asked me if I felt that these events were a sham - used as a goodwill gesture with the end goal being the sale of cars. The answer to that question is complicated. Volvo’s entire existence depends on selling cars. Therefore, anything they do is with an end goal of car sales in mind.
But every company needs to have a philanthropy because people want to believe the company they do business with is interested in the greater good. So events like those are not just some PR ploy - they’re the cost of entry to operating in today’s economy and a way for a company to humanize itself.
One can’t forget that Volvo employees are also part of the company’s target audience. An unimpeachable fact is that, in a capitalistic society, humans spend a good portion of their lives at a job. One would hope those employees expect their companies to be good corporate citizens.
The award winners were thrilled that Volvo was helping them fund their charities. Volvo succeeded in furthering their messaging that they care about everyday heroes. There’s not shame or sham in that.