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[GreenYes] : Hawken's excellent critique of McDonald's sustainability claims and corporate sp

>FYI -  

> Distributed by Food First
>
> McDonald's and Corporate Social Responsibility ?
>
> By Paul Hawken*
>
> The April 14th McDonald's Report on Corporate Social Responsibility
> (http://www.mcdonalds.com/corporate/social/report/index.html)
> is a low water mark for the concept of sustainability and the
> promise of corporate social responsibility. It is a melange of
> homilies, generalities, and soft assurances that do not provide
> hard metrics of the company, its activities, or its impacts on
> society and the environment. While movements towards
> transparency and disclosure are to be applauded, there is little
> of either in the report. That their report is based on the Global
> Reporting Initiative (GRIs) calls to question whether the GRIs
> have anything to do with the concept of sustainability or true
> corporate responsibility.
>
> This is not a report about stakeholder rights as they would have
> one believe. It is a report about how a corporation that has been
> severely stung by bad publicity and declining earnings now
> wants to plead its case to its critics. It states that those NGOs
> that continue to criticize just don't want to make things better
> while ignoring what their critics are most concerned about.
>
> The McDonald's Social Responsibility Report is like Ronald
> McDonald-a fantasy. It presupposes that we can continue to
> have a global chain of restaurants that serves fried, sugary junk
> food that is produced by an agricultural system of monocultures,
> monopolies, standardization and destruction, and at the same
> time find a path to sustainability. As the founder of The Natural
> Step (TNS) in the United States, I can say that nothing could be
> further from the idea of sustainability than the McDonald's
> Corporation.
>
> The Report states that "being a socially responsible leader
> [their self-appointed term] begins a process that involves more
> awareness on the issues that will make a difference"
> McDonald's has known for decades that the food it serves harms
> people, promotes obesity, heart disease, and has detrimental
> effects on land and water. Addressing that one issue would
> make a difference. They have known about the detrimental
> effects of their food just as the tobacco companies understood
> the impact of their products. Yet they have done little to modify
> their menu. In the arena of social equity, McDonald's has
> resisted from its inception all attempts to organize its workers,
> and through industry trade organizations has consistently and
> intensely lobbied against raises in the minimum wage. To say
> McDonald's has actively worked to crush trade unions is an
> understatement.
>
> It is good to see ideas about materials and reduced waste being
> promoted by corporate actors. But it is equally important to note
> that corporations who do that only have not changed in any major
> respect and may be using these superficial changes to avoid
> deeper structural issues that do address sustainability.
> Essentially, if corporations can make more money by using less
> stuff, less waste, less pollution, so much the better. But the
> nature of their corporate activity has not changed and that is
> certainly the case for McDonald's. For years it has promoted and
> demanded the least expensive standardized food for its chains.
> In so doing it has created powerful incentives for the
> centralization of food processing, agribusiness, and long supply
> lines, all of which reduce American food security. For McDonald's
> to announce that it now wants to have antibiotic free chickens is
> a slap in the face to the thousands of small poultry farmers who
> could not compete and were forced out of business by the
> agri-corporations that introduced the very industrial chicken
> practices that required antibiotics to avoid massive die-off of
> their flocks. Simply stated, standardized food destroys
> agricultural and biological diversity. Nothing could be more
> antithetical to the recovery of overstressed farmlands than fast
> food.
>
> At this juncture in our history, as companies and governments
> turn their attention to sustainability, it is critical that the
> meaning of sustainability not get lost in the trappings of
> corporate speak. There is a growing worldwide movement
> towards corporate responsibility and sustainability, led in many
> cases by companies whose history and products have brought
> damage and suffering to the world. I am concerned that good
> housekeeping practices such as recycled hamburger shells will
> be confused with creating a just and sustainable world.
> Transnational corporations such as McDonalds and their
> associated lobbyists and trade associations have led efforts to
> Americanize trade through representatives at the WTO. They
> have prevented the strengthening of environmental and labor
> laws and they have led the effort to eliminate the ability of
> smaller, more vulnerable nations to determine their economic
> destiny. In other words, they embrace "sustainability" as long as
> they can make money and it doesn't change their overall
> purpose, which is to grow faster than the overall world economy
> and population and increase their share of the world's economic
> output to the benefit of small number of shareholders.
>
> The question we have to ask is what is enough? Is it enough
> that one in five meals in the US is a fast food meal? Does that
> satisfy McDonald's? Or do they want that figure to be one in
> three, or how about one in two? How about the developing
> world? Does McDonald's want to see the rest of the world drink
> the equivalent of 550 cans of soda pop as do Americans? Do
> they think every third global meal should be comprised of greasy
> meat, fries, and caramelized sugar? They won't answer those
> questions because that is exactly their corporate mission. They
> have 29,000 restaurants with nearly 3,000 new ones added each
> year.
>
> A valid report on sustainability and social responsibility must
> ask the question: What if everybody did it? What would be the
> ecological footprint of such a company? What is McDonald's
> footprint now? The report carefully avoids the corporation's real
> environmental impacts. It talked about water use at the outlets,
> but failed to note that every quarter-pounder requires 600
> gallons of water. It talked about recycled paper, but not the
> pfisteria-laden waters caused by large-scale pork producers in
> the southeast. It talked about energy use in the restaurants, but
> not in the unsustainable food system McDonald's relies upon
> that uses 10 calories of energy for every calorie of good
> produced.  "Sustaining" McDonald's requires a simple
> unsustainable formula: cheap food plus cheap non-unionized
> labor plus deceptive advertising = high profits. An honest report
> would tell stakeholders how much it truly costs society to
> support a corporation like McDonald's. It would detail the
> externalities borne by other people, places, and generations:
> The draining of aquifers, the contaminated waterways, the
> strip-mined soils, the dangerous abattoirs where migrant
> workers are employed, the inhumane, injury-prone dead-end
> jobs preparing chicken carcasses for Chicken McNuggets, the
> global greenhouse methane gas emitted by the millions of
> hamburger cows in feedlots, the impact of their $2 billion
> advertising and promotional campaigns to convince young
> people to demand their food, the ethics of using toys to induce
> small children into their restaurants. The list is longer than
> this. What the report is short on is candor, transparency and
> corporate honesty.
>
> * Paul Hawken is the author of The Ecology of Commerce and
> Natural Capitalism. He is the founder of the Sausalito-based
> Natural Capital Institute and is on the advisory board of Food
> First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.
>
> For a list of issues that McDonald's did not deal with
> in its Report on Corporate Social Responsibility:
> http://www.foodfirst.org/media/press/2002/mcdonaldsissues.html
>
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