Friday, 18 May 2007
Looking Good vs Ethical Velocity
Here's the real debate we may need to have behind that innocent-being-sold-on-trial-in-McDonalds furore (or at least blogging flurry)
We need to start judging brands in the way CSR people do, not the way broadsheet journos do. I have done a bit of digging and I have to say the more you look at Mc Donalds, the better it gets.
Yes they make fast food. And fast food is fatty and salty. If you eat too much of it too often for too many years, without exercising, it will make you fat and could lead to heart and other serious health problems. But all of the above is true of a Pret Coronation chicken sandwich. And in fact a Guardian journo worked out this was actually less healthy than a big mac on almost every count (bar salt). Yes they (formerly) advertised and marketed their fast food in ways that appealed to kids; using a fun clown character and 'happy meal' toys. And yes their bristlingly defensive legal strategy in the 1990s (McLibel) rightly made them a focus of activism and protest. And yes they probably still have issues, eg (I just read on an antiMcD blog) over toy manufacturing in China.
That's their starting point, but the question is how much progress are they helping us all make on sustainable issues? The key measure for standards in sustainability is ETHICAL VELOCITY; direction and speed of change. DuPont for instance are absolute eco-saints, ask any treehugger, because they cut emissions by over 60% and toxic pollution by over 90%. It doesnt matter that they look dirty, they and DuPont and Dow are getting us where we need to go.
Here's a quote from a recent report on the 100 most ethical companies in the world, 2007
"...Are they leading, are they following, or are they ignoring? And to be a leader, the company needs to have or build a competitive edge, such as size or technology, which allows it to be influential. In assembling the 2007 rankings of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, the researchers and editors of Ethisphere examined more than 5,000 companies across 30 separate industries looking for true ethical leadership. We looked for absolutes. We examined companies in relational context of their industries. And we looked for influential leadership that moved others to change or follow. Companies were measured in a rigorous eight-step process and then scored against nine distinct ethical leadership criteria. Some may ask, “How can McDonald’s be on the list?” The answer is that the food service industry is the largest industry in the world—and McDonald’s has clearly stood apart in introducing healthier food fare, sustainable packaging, food safety, and ethical purchasing practices."
Which is like what Richard Reed said, quoted on Amelia's blog; he phoned up the MD of Greenpeace and they told him yes McDonalds was a global partner on tackling deforestation and generally one of the good guys, contrary to public perceptions.
Declaration of interest, yes I have worked with innocent in the past, yes I chatted to them about this issue last week; but no I am not speaking on their behalf or being paid (or even asked nicely) by them to think about this issue. I did fancy a smoothie this morning as I was quite tired and hung over and maybe that's what brought it back to mind. In fact I am so hungover I could almost fancy a McDonalds.
But seriously I just think it's really interesting, like I thought it interesting when Apple (a brand that looks really good) was rated the worst in its industry by Greenpeace. I'm sorry if this post offends anyone who hates McDonalds on political grounds and cant forgive them for the past, but if brand image means we cant make progress nd also change our minds from time to time, I know which one I think we should sacrifice.
Right, I'm off to Paul Colman's blog to see what's been happening with that Pigeon. (Footnote: now he appears to be just sitting there. Like a scarecrow in some ways. I think he is trying to scare any further birds away, which is quite a nice thing to do really. He may also be hungover).