Scarlett Johansson split with Oxfam 'may deter celebrity charity work'

Trevor Neilson, co-founder of Global Philanthropy Group, weighs in on the SodaStream row

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A-list stars and billionaire philanthropists are less likely to get involved with charities because of the row that resulted in Scarlett Johansson cutting her ties with Oxfam last week, according to an expert on celebrity philanthropy.

Trevor Neilson, co-founder of Global Philanthropy Group, has worked with stars including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Madonna. He has also advised Bill Gates, Bono, Bill Clinton and Richard Branson.

Responding to the split between the Hollywood actress and the charity, for which she has worked for almost a decade, Mr Neilson told The Independent on Sunday: "Now, the celebrities, actors, athletes, people who are the focus of our celebrity-obsessed culture, will be less likely to become philanthropic."

He added: "The biggest asset that Scarlett Johansson has is her fame, and if people like her are scared of using their fame to make the world a better place, no one wins."

The Hollywood actress will appear in a SodaStream TV advert during the US Super Bowl tonight, marking the start of her role as "global brand ambassador" for the company. One of SodaStream's main factories is in Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN and the EU say are illegal under international law.  The US government regards such settlements as ‘illegitimate’.

Oxfam said Johansson's promotion of SodaStream was "incompatible" with her being its ambassador.

Mr Nielson thinks the charity could now struggle to recruit celebrities, saying that it is "unrealistic" for any charity to expect celebrity supporters to agree with it on everything. "It's not as if Johansson was working with Oxfam on the West Bank issue; she was working with them on extreme poverty. Do you have to agree with an NGO on all issues in the world in order to work with it on one issue?" he added.