Global Brands, Local Solves

And while people are afraid of all the desert’s creatures, they ignore the most obvious danger: the heat.

The instant we stepped off the plane, it hit us: Phoenix is HOT. Curious how people handle this extreme heat, we went to the South Mountain Environmental Center where we met Lisa. Lisa is an environmental educator and when she is not working at SMEC, she works in the sustainability department at Arizona State University.

Lisa told us that Phoenicians have an interesting relationship with their environment. “When people think of the desert, they think of scorpions, snakes, and coyotes, and they are afraid of it. It’s funny because Phoenicians are living smack-dab in the middle of the desert. And while people are afraid of all the desert’s creatures, they ignore the most obvious danger: the heat. It is so hot here that people don’t sweat- instead the water just evaporates out of their body, and it can lead to extreme dehydration… quickly. For people that can seek shelter in air conditioned spaces, it is okay. But for people who can't afford air conditioning, they are putting themselves at serious health risks."

This issue was echoed when we spoke to our Uber driver. Our Uber driver works at a country club most of the year, but during the off season (summer), he drives Uber. "The rich people leave when it gets too hot. They can afford to, so they go to California or to the East Coast. Since they leave, I have to get another job to pay the bills."

All of this shed light on a unique challenge that Phoenix faces: heat discrimination. Heat causes more than discomfort – the danger of heat is unfairly distributed on the city’s most disadvantaged residents. Without airconditioned environments, like a house or car, people with a lower income are put in a vulnerable and dangerous position, with little means to escape. In addition, on a community level, research shows that poorer neighborhoods are actually physically hotter. In Phoenix, for every $10,000 increase in a neighborhood’s median income, vegetation also increases, resulting in temperatures dropping by one-half degree.  

While heat discrimination might be a niche-topic to Phoenicians, both local and global brands have an opportunity to take a supportive role within the community and provide resources to aid disadvantaged people. And an initiative of sorts would not be the first time a global brand made a positive splash in Arizona- In the 1990’s, Intel, the technology giant, spent $150 million building and expanding a water recycling plant in Chandler, AZ (a town surrounding Phoenix). Along with treating wastewater, the plant increases water supply to the local aquifers, which will only increase in importance as the Colorado River and other surrounding water sources shrink in supply.

Globally, there is a large trend for brands to be positive corporate citizens, but they usually focus their efforts on large-scale global ramifications with the aim of generating favorable PR. However, some big, global brands that may seem very intangible to people, can and are making an effort to solve local community problems, making a real difference in people’s lives.

Whether it is through creating job opportunities for people in Indianapolis (Eli Lily), helping to solve segregation issues in Milwaukee (Green Bay Packers), or working to aid local environmental issues in Phoenix (Intel), brands should continue to expand their reach into local communities for reasons beyond large-scale PR. Not only does it create a strong group of brand advocates, it gives brands an opportunity to use their resources for good.


Lana Meyer