McDonald’s, Why Don’t You Do Right?

McDonald's Restaurant, Miles City

Last time, Childhood Obesity News looked at how Tim Carman constructed an article around the gimmick of imagining the far-out funny stuff that could happen if the McDonald’s corporation were allowed to do anything it wanted at the most recent Olympics. But every absurd possibility he thought of turned out to be true, even what he calls “the most grotesque scenario of all,” as described here:

Right in the shadow of Olympic Stadium, where athletes with body-fat percentages of negative-5 percent stretch the limits of human speed and endurance, McDonald’s will construct the world’s largest fast-food restaurant… The hypocrisy and cynicism would be so thick that even a palate coated with a McDonald’s chocolate shake (calories: 870) could taste it!

This was not mere idle imagination. They did go ahead and built a 1,500-seat McDonald’s, at the very gate of the Olympic Stadium, a perverse monument to double-think if ever there was one.

Every year, the people who own McDonald’s stock are permitted to vote on various ideas about things the corporation should or should not do. A group called Corporate Accountability International (CAI) often issues a challenge, in the form of a proposal.

Last year, Maureen Morrison learned on behalf of Advertising Age, one such proposal asked the McDonald’s board to report on what the company was doing about childhood obesity. Specifically, what was it doing about the new evidence that fast food appears to be inextricably linked to both childhood obesity and the consequent medical disorders?

In addition to voting, a shareholder apparently can appoint a spokesperson to convey her or his opinion. Shareholder John Harrington asked pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Andrew Bremer to present his point of view to the other investors, and Morrison says:

Dr. Bremer also spoke in support of the resolution at the annual meeting, saying that there’s a growing concern about how McDonald’s and chains of its ilk are contributing to obesity and diet-related disease… He added that the chain aims to open about 1,300 restaurants this year globally, and noted that around the world the chain has already remodeled 45% of store interiors.

Store interiors? Remodeled? What on earth does that have to do with childhood obesity? Other CAI initiatives in the past have called upon Ronald McDonald to retire and asked hospitals to stop contracting with McDonald’s to occupy part of their premises, which are ostensibly devoted to healing. But McDonald’s, in its own defense, says that really, it’s only in 26 American hospitals. But so what? What does the number matter? According to critics, even 26 hospitals is too many.

A mere two months ago, CAI demanded that McDonald’s stop targeting kids with their marketing, and do something more substantial than revamping its public relations efforts. In other words, bring about some real change. Reporter Harry Stevens obtained a quote from CAI’s Sara Deon, who told him:

What McDonald’s is attempting to pass off as nutritional initiatives, slick nutri-washing campaigns, and ineffectual voluntary initiatives, are nowhere near enough to address the public health impacts of its business operations nor is it enough to protect shareholders from increasing financial risk.

When the shareholders vote, the improvements suggested by CAI generally garner about 6% of the ballots. But Deon and others from the organization say that these measures do send a message, and do influence corporate behavior, as well as educate the shareholders.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s is unhappy that sales of kids’ meals have been declining in the past few years. In the corporate world, this is considered a disaster. Even maintaining the same market share is looked upon as failure. The only thing that satisfies the corporate mentality is for sales to go up and up and up. They have not absorbed the truth articulated by environmentalist Edward Abbey:

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “McDonald’s Olympian achievement in London,” The Washington Post, 07/18/12
Source: “McDonald’s Shareholders Defeat Proposal to Weigh Impact on Obesity,” AdAge.com, 05/24/12
Source: “McDonald’s Shareholders to Vote on Marketing Unwholesome Food to Children,” Triple Pundit, 05/23/13
Image by David Schott.

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