Thursday, March 27, 2008

When Big Mac's and Cigarettes Claim Social Responsibility

--trends + business + politics--

McDonalds has by "certain standards" claimed to have upheld to strict environmental initiatives. The CSR section of their site offers details everything from the rational behind antibiotic use in meat to their animal welfare record to their "social responsibility supply chain." The video below elaborates on their sustainable packaging practices world wide. But all this "good will" is well...frankly hard to swallow.

From the psychological effect of the idea and experience of "fast food," the high caloric content (and poor nutritional value) in an average meal, the carbon footprint from meat production, the aggressive marketing to children of unhealthy happy meals and the like (from tie in's to latest and great films and cartoons), to even the idea of "drive thru" eating where you can have a dinner at 60mph, without realizing what you even put in your mouth - ultimately adds up to more unconscious, unhealthy and certainly un-socially responsible practices. The very nature of its business prevents it from being socially responsible.

The Altria Group (formerly known as Philip Morris Companies), that owns 50% of the U.S Tobacco market, also has a history of donating hundred of millions of dollars to all kinds of charities, that aid those in need. But does that reconcile the fact that the company is responsible for killing millions of people over the decades ? Let's get real, can a cigarette manufacturer ever claim social responsibility on any level ? Altria, by the way, also owns Miller Brewing, until recently Kraft General Foods, Bird's Eye, Louis Rich and other well-known food subsidiaries in addition to manufacturing cigarettes, so that turkey sandwich you might be eating today, is ultimately also paying for that pack of smokes someone else is buying. Who knew a sandwich could get so complicated ?

It's important for consumers to always keep an eye on the big picture of the whole "life cycle" of a company and its products when assessing how "socially responsible" they actually are. As they say..."God is in the details."

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