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PBH Sets Policy On ‘Cross-Branding’

This memo was sent out to the trustees of the Produce for Better Health Foundation:

To: PBH Board of Trustees

Based on my message to you last week regarding PBH & Imagination Farms, I indicated I would share the PBH executive committee’s policy decision that will provide guidance for future PBH “cross-branding” possibilities. The policy that was approved is:

Approved by PBH Executive Committee — May 1, 2007

“PBH will continue to aggressively encourage industry members and others to use the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters brand logo and messages in their marketing efforts following PBH approval (as agreed upon in the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters brand licensing agreement.)

PBH will not use brand images (e.g. logos, characters) of other food or marketing entities exclusively aligned with individual food companies in PBH materials (e.g. printed materials, websites, etc) if use of the brand precludes any PBH licensee in good standing from benefiting through the marketing of said brand. Use of said brand in PBH materials to show that the company has provided a contribution to support PBH activities (e.g. in-kind, cash, sponsorship, or advertisement) is acceptable. When the situation is not clear-cut or obvious, it will be brought to the executive committee for review. When confidentiality is a high priority, PBH officers may review the situation first to determine if it should be brought to the full executive committee.”

We believe this guidance prevents an unfair competitive advantage to some at the expense of others, while still allowing for collaborations that benefit our collective effort to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Let me know if you have any questions.

— Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D.
President & CEO
Produce for Better Health Foundation
Wilmington, Delaware

This concludes a saga that began with our piece Imagination Farms/Disney Garden Score Big With PBH and Pixar, which was focused on the accomplishments of Imagination Farms but mentioned the announcement of a “strategic alliance” with PBH.

This quickly brought forth some industry reaction which we published as Pundit’s Mailbag — PBH/Imagination Farms Alliance Questioned, which featured a letter from a longtime contributor to PBH that questioned whether PBH announcing itself “aligned” with a particular company was a good idea.

We then published Complaints From PBH’s Board Members Point To Weakness In Governance, which looked at PBH’s governance structure as a possible contributing factor to the way this issue was allowed to develop.

Trustees and members of PBH’s Executive Committee looked at the situation and demanded a fix. We explored this issue in PBH Reassesses Imagination Farms Decision. This piece also included the text of a memo from Elizabeth Pivonka to the Board of Trustees that she references in the memo above as her message from the previous week.

Most recently we published Pundit’s Mailbag — Pivonka Sheds Light On PBH’s Decision-Making Process in which Elizabeth Pivonka emphasized the organization’s deep commitment to proper process.

Now, we have the end result of that process. The policy adopted by the Executive Committee is clearly driven by the nature of the situation PBH finds itself in. PBH is dependent on many produce companies to fund its operations and, clearly, those companies spoke out and said that the “alliance with Imagination Farms was unacceptable.

The reason it was unacceptable, the Executive Committee felt, is that each PBH licensee ought to be able to utilize all PBH materials, such as brochures and websites. Yet, of course, these licensees would be hesitant to use such materials if they were festooned with characters or logos that represent direct competitors.

All’s well that ends well and everyone will probably be satisfied with this comeuppance. It is far better that the issue came out and was brought to a head right now while changes could be made than to have irate supporters walking out the door six months later.

As far as the substance of the policy goes, it is probably as good a policy as could be drafted in this situation. The key lesson, though, is that nobody knows what the next big problem is going to be, so staff needs to use the board, bother them if need be, but insist on the board sharing insight. To get different perspectives on the issues at hand is one of the most valuable contributions a board can make.

One of the most important jobs of the professional staff is to force the board to make that contribution.

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