OCA Challenges McDonald's Greenwashing

McDonald's issues report on social responsibility

Chicago Sun Times April 17, 2002


If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Two years ago, McDonald's Corp. CEO Jack Greenberg criticized
animal-rights activists who protested at the annual shareholders'
meeting for failing to recognize McDonald's efforts to be socially and
environmentally responsible.

At the time, Greenberg said the demonstrators from People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) "will not be happy until we sell
only beans and rice."

Now, the Oak Brook-based fast-food chain, still criticized by
anti-globalization activists and suffering dramatic sales declines in
countries that have had outbreaks of mad-cow disease, is taking a cue
from its critics.

The company compiled and released its first report this week--a 45-page,
politically correct manifesto--detailing its efforts to be socially,
environmentally and animal-friendly. The report adheres to guidelines
advocated by the Global Reporting Initiative, a Boston-based group that
has set up a framework for companies to report their social performance.
It's available at www. mcdonalds.com/corporate/social/

Some little-known McDonald's initiatives include employee seminars on
topics such as Gender- Speak; a Ronald McDonald care mobile that brings
dental care to needy children, and charitable grants to fund facial
reconstructive surgery for children overseas.

It's doubtful the report will silence PETA. At McDonald's shareholders'
meeting next month, PETA and Trillium Asset Management, a Boston-based
investment firm that specializes in socially responsible investments,
are sponsoring a resolution calling on McDonald's to expand the
animal-welfare standards it enforces in the United States and Britain to
all 121 countries where it operates.

Other initiatives in the report include a new partnership with the
Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, a division of
Conservation International, to ensure that McDonald's global food supply
is grown using sustainable agriculture and conservation practices.

Usually, anti-globalization activists who decry the use of pesticides,
genetically engineered ingredients and wasteful land-use practices by
food corporations are the ones calling for such practices.

The company has tried to stem mad-cow fears, especially in Japan, where
same-store sales plunged 15 percent in March, by explaining that it uses
beef from safe sources. The report also points out that McDonald's buys
no beef from rain-forest lands.

Another selling point is community ties. More than 70 percent of its
restaurants worldwide are owned by local operators, who hire local
people and buy goods from regional and national suppliers.

The company also has stepped up efforts to save water and to recycle its
paper and cardboard. In the Chicago area, 500 McDonald's restaurants are
putting Big Macs in biodegradable food containers.

McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker insisted the report is not meant to
deflect specific criticisms.

"Shareholders, customers and communities want to know, 'Do you stand for
more than economics and the bottom line?'" Riker said.

Not everyone is convinced.

Said Simon Harris, campaign director for the Organic Consumers
Association, a grass-roots non-profit focused on promoting a sustainable
food system, "McDonald's represents the face of global corporatization.
The company looks at the environment and at communities as resources to
be extracted."

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