March 22, 2011 § 4 Comments
McDonald’s caught my attention again recently with the release of their 2010 Corporate Responsibility (CR) report. I have to admit to feeling incredibly torn, as I read through the report and 2011-2013 goals that McDonald’s has established. On the one hand, the awareness and effort to move towards a more corporately responsible state is a great sign of industry momentum in favour of social responsibility. On the other hand, McDonald’s product traditionally collides with the principles of corporate responsibility, which would make a global claim to corporate responsibility and sustainability misaligned. But is it misaligned if this is a glimpse of what’s to come in the future?
The concept of corporate responsibility is one that permeates through not just what a company says, but also in what they do, how they do it, and the essence behind the product or service they offer. Integrity, responsibility, and ethical consideration of all areas of business and product or service development are the holy grail of corporate responsibility that CR practitioners work hard to help companies achieve. Some companies get it, others don’t – and increasingly, I believe that the public can tell the difference and are holding companies accountable.
In McDonald’s case, the very core of what their product is, how it is produced, and what it actually stands for has traditionally been held to be in direct conflict with the meaning of corporate responsibility: mass produced fast food lacking in many of the essential nutrients we need. Food that has been engineered to taste delicious, but adding little to no benefit to the body. In addition, customers are almost always prompted to consume more of it: “Did you want to super size that?” A rather disturbing practice considering obesity and Type II diabetes are universally on the rise. Good for the bottom-line, not so good for society.
The phenomenon of McDonald’s food itself has been so interesting that in 2004, Morgan Spurlock made the documentary, Super Size Me, to capture the effects of McDonald’s on him when eaten daily. Since then, McDonald’s food itself has also become an internet meme. Customers all over the world took to their make-shift labs to test how long McDonald’s food would take to rot. We have all heard of the 12-year old burger and fries, and Joann Burso’s perfect year-old Happy Meal. Although, by far, the best test I have seen is by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt in his variable-controlled test in A Hamburger Today.
All this to say – the current perception is that although McDonald’s is a fun brand with delicious food, when it comes to food quality and long-term nutrition, McDonald’s severely falls short.
But what about their CR report? The report itself outlines all the major CR areas of concern that I would be interested in:
- Corporate Governance & Ethics
- Nutrition & Well-being (including marketing guidelines)
- Sustainable Supply Chain
- Environmental Responsibility
- Employee Experience
This in itself is very promising. It suggests McDonald’s is looking at CR and sustainability from the holistic perspective I was talking about above. Apart from this, it would also seem that McDonald’s has been working on the above areas since 2004 (interesting, the same year Super Size Me was released). « Read the rest of this entry »
August 23, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Late last week, I came across a blog post by Dr. Cleve W. Stevens, the founder and President of Owl Sight Intentions, Inc., giving his perspective on BP’s management of the Gulf oil spill earlier this year.
He talks about the differentiation between a transactional approach to operations, problem-solving, and leadership, compared with a transformational approach. My own personal interpretation is that much of the world still operates within a transactional paradigm, driven by the short-term motivation of economic profits. A transformational way of being occurs when a greater vision is taken on that strives towards enabling the personal growth and holistic well-being and betterment of other people and a community alongside a person or organization’s development. It is a long-term motivation driven by mutual benefit and sustainability. Dr. Stevens uses BP as an excellent example highlighting not only the difference between the two approaches, but also the magnitude of the outcomes: both potential and actual.
The original post can be found at CSRwire’s Talkback blog and I have also included it here below. I highly recommend reading it. It’s not only a great read, but offers compelling insight into the way companies and individuals carry themselves. If nothing else, it presents interesting food for thought.
At the end of the day, only you can decide what kind of leader or company you want to be.
June 10, 2010 § Leave a Comment
In a recent report by Reuters, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn is offering its workers at the Shenzhen plant an opportunity for a 66 per cent wage increase in reaction to the recent wave of suicides and deaths. It’s an “opportunity” for wage increase as employees would need to pass a three-month performance review for the opportunity to earn 2,000 yuan ($300 CDN) a month. Employees would also be provided the option to work overtime, “making it more voluntary than in the past”.
The wage increase comes in addition to a universal 30 per cent pay increase on the cash portion of wages that was recently announced, as well as the installation of safety nets at the factory as a preventative measure to suicide attempts. All of which are notably tactical reactions. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
Apple is making the headlines again lately, and this time, it’s not with good news. Foxconn, a major electronics manufacturer that assembles Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has seen yet another employee suicide: the eleventh suicide attempt in the last year, and ninth successful one. Nan Gang, a 21-year old employee of the company, died after jumping off the four-storey building. But wait – this isn’t new. We’ve seen this before. The question is why is it still happening, and happening so frequently.
May 3, 2010 § 1 Comment
In the recent calamity that has befallen the Gulf of Mexico, government agencies, environmental groups, and most of all, British Petroleum scramble to contain the environmental disaster that has resulted from the recent explosion of a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Questions and criticism have been flying about how this could have happened, and more pointedly, who is to blame.
April 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
I have always been very impressed with Anthropologie, but lately, even more so. Not only is their customer service personal, responsive and outstanding, but they have recently implemented a campaign that I thought was ingenious. At the end of a sale, they ask their customers if they are willing to forego the shopping bag, and by doing so, will have the opportunity to be automatically entered into a raffle for store credit.
Smart. Not only does it make the customer think about whether he or she really needs that bag, but it creates incentive for the customer to walk out without another unnecessary shopping bag in an oh-so-subtle and tactful way. Less bags means money saved for Anthropologie, less garbage and a chance to win store credit for the customer, and less waste for the environment. Everyone wins.
Really fantastic. I’m always a fan of waste reduction. Big points for Anthopologie for being thoughtful and responsible.
March 27, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Earth Hour started four hours ago in its founding city, Sydney, Australia, and has since been making it’s way around the world. Since then cities small and large have been demonstrating their concern for climate change by silently, yet powerfully, turning off their lights for an hour at the stroke of 8:30pm-local time.
Here in Toronto, we still have a solid eleven hours ahead of us. And for you – are you going to participate?
I’ve heard, in the past, a lot of cynicism and critique around Earth Hour. “Why participate? What’s an hour going to do?”
My comment to this is two-fold.
The first is that Earth Hour is not about the actual energy saved around the world. It’s about awareness, choice and social change. It’s about taking a stand through something as simple as turning off your lights for an hour, and bringing to the surface how that simple act is already a contribution. We waste so much energy in the developed world – amongst so many other things (water’s another good candidate). And if only for that one hour, we think about how much we consume and actually need, that’s a good thing.
The second is around actual impact. Environmental impact, energy savings, and for the individual, money back in the pocket. The small act of turning off your lights for the one hour may be miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not just about you – it’s about the collective. In 2009, cities all over the world noted decreases in energy consumption in their locales. For Toronto, we saw a 15% decrease in electricity usage. Around Southern Ontario, the energy savings amounted to 88.3 megawatts (the equivalent electricity to power 1,471 average-size homes for 24-hours). In a country like the Philippines, the savings came to 611 megawatts of electricity, which for that small country was estimated to be the equivalent of shutting down twelve coal-fired power plants for an hour. Who said there’s no impact?
When we act as a part of something bigger, the result can be enormous and even miraculous. Big change comes from the small actions of people who believe in something more. And there’s empowerment in that. The best part is that we get to choose.
I don’t know about you, but at 8:30-ET tonight, I’m turning my lights off.
March 16, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I’ve been thinking a lot about personal ethics lately: our personal “way of being” that defines us, our actions, how we approach decisions, and ultimately how we treat others. We talk a lot about corporate social responsibility, but what about our personal social responsibility? What are we doing? How are we behaving? How far do we go?
A situation was shared with me recently, whereby a person’s decision to pursue one option would directly compromise their associate’s position. The relationship between the personal gain for the one was directly tied to the personal loss of the other. In this story, the person chose to proceed anyway. It made me consider what I would do in that circumstance. And it occurred to me that somewhere along the line, with the heightened complexities of the adult world, amongst pressures to perform in a job and provide for a family, some of the most basic principles of interpersonal behavior – and personal ethics – may have been forgotten.
It makes me think – perhaps everything we should know about ethics, we were taught in Kindergarten. We remember the principles of sharing, of playing nice, waiting our turn, being honest, and ultimately, of contributing to tasks, our micro-community and the collective well-being. We would care if something we did hurt Ramona’s feelings, and we would learn to apologize. Obviously, some situations are not so simple, but the same basic principles still apply. Would we teach our children to do as we do? Would we do, say or act in the same way in front of our children and grandchildren as we do away from them? If there’s a question – perhaps it shouldn’t be done. But maybe the problem is we’ve become so practiced at shutting down the voice inside that we no longer hear it – and all we see is what I need, what I want, what I think. And what’s lost are the needs, wants and thoughts of those around us.
Perhaps it’s an over-simplification, but it’s worth considering. Sometimes what the most complex problems need are the simplest of solutions – back to the basics.