Organic Consumers Association

Paul Hawken Resigns from Green Business Network over McDonald's Issue

Open Letter from Paul Hawken to the Green Business Network Steering

Posted May 14, 2003

Please let me take this moment to reflect on what a Green Business is and
then submit my request to be taken off the Steering Committee.

Increasingly, corporations such as McDonald's have tried to direct the
concept of a green business to recycled tray liners, reduced waste stream,
and other molecular flows. Those are important issues and require our
attention and diligence. But doing so does not make a business green. Green
refers to the environment, to ecology. It is about the awareness that we are
part of a complex living system, not simply trying to be part of a short
term fix. Integral to that system are human beings-their lives, their
bodies, their wages, and how they are treated and respected.

To have a company such as McDonald's on the Steering Committee is an insult
to the idea of being "green." McDonald's spends $2 billion a year creating
trillions of advertising impressions in order to get children hooked on
fatty, sugary, unhealthy food. Even our own government (NIH) announced last
year that the alarming doubling in childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes in
the past decade was attributable to junk food. It used to be called Adult
Onset Diabetes because it was caused by one's lifestyle, but thanks to our
food companies, it is now a children's disease. (I urge all of you and Bob
Langert to spend a day with a child with diabetes and give them their
shots.) We can welcome any supply chain improvements McDonald's engenders,
without anointing them with a green label. Their strategy is to get involved
with green NGOs and receive their blessing precisely because they do not
want their business model changed or challenged. Please refer to the URL's
below for more information on their absurd and damaging corporate practices
with respect to our children and the American food system in general.

Now that the idea of sustainability in business is gaining traction, it is
important that its meaning not get lost in the glossy trappings of corporate

McDonald's has not demonstrated the kind of understanding or leadership that
would qualify it as part of a green business network if that term is to have
any meaning at all. Even last year, in an article dripping with disdain, the
Wall Street Journal revealed how McDonald's was giving away dolls in order
to entice nine and ten year old girls into a life of fast food. McDonald's
concern was that girls tend to shy away from fatty foods at puberty. This
happened even though they have worked for over ten years with Environmental
Defense to improve their "performance." In other words, the concept of the
environment at McDonald's is ghettoized. It does not touch or affect
corporate avarice. Nor does it include our daughter's stomachs and

Because of the widespread national concern about childhood obesity, many
companies, especially McDonald's came under fire from parents,
nutritionists, activists, and scientists. In July 29th, 2002, public
relations giant Golin/Harris announced a "Global Obesity Task Force."
Sounds good. But its purpose wasn't to combat childhood obesity. It was
created to protect the brands, business and reputations of junk food
companies. To quote the press release: "The increase in childhood obesity
has special interest and government groups seeking to hold someone
responsible. And corporate America is the likely target. Golin/Harris
International has created its Global Obesity Task Force with proprietary
tools to help companies under fire in the obesity debate... When managed
appropriately, companies can withstand issues without public confidence and
brand trust eroding."One of the founding members and sponsors was
McDonald's. So much for corporate social responsibility. Enough said.


Paul Hawken
Natural Capital Institute

McDonalds information:

At 2:31 PM -0400 5/14/03, Corina Beczner wrote:
> Dear Green Business Network Steering Committee Members:
> We are pleased that Bob Langert, Director of Environmental Affairs,
> McDonald's Corporation has joined the Steering Committee.
> Also, we're providing you with an updated GBN Steering Committee contact
> list, attached. Please let us know if you have any updates to that list.
> Sincerely,
> Corina Beczner
> ***********************************************
> Corina Beczner, Senior Project Manager
> Oakland, CA
> Washington, DC
> ***********************************************
> Attachment converted: Cube:GBN SC 5-03.doc (WDBN/MSWD) (000EDA74)

80 Liberty Ship Way
Sausalito, CA 94965
415 332 6990 ph
415 331 0556 fx

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