There is an argument that some companies—such as those that deal in weapons and tobacco–just can’t do corporate responsibility in a meaningful way. As a result, they are often excluded from CSR rankings and benchmarking exercises. But what about a company like McDonald’s, under constant fire for its products? How does the world’s largest fast-food chain practice corporate social responsibility that is both contextual and real?
At McDonald’s recent inclusion and diversity benchmarking event, Senior Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility Kathleen Bannan began her presentation with a statement that will resonate with several regular readers of this space: “CSR is everybody’s business.”
Bannan was attempting to highlight the evolution from how the company used to interpret CSR and what it has come to mean today, i.e., a shift from purely philanthropic ventures to a core element of the company’s long term strategy. Although the last part might be too much to swallow for critics who claim that a company that sells fast food and offers plastic toys cannot spout responsibility, Bannan offered some interesting context.
According to Bannan, who is a Boston College graduate and previously worked for the Center for Corporate Citizenship, having a home within the diversity department offers her team an opportunity to participate in shaping the company’s long-term strategy. Further, alignment with Global Chief Diversity Officer Pat Harris’ vision ensures that CSR remain relevant for the company.
Here’s how Bannan presented the evolution of CSR at McDonald’s:
CSR meant community involvement, national grassroots programs and building its image as a trust bank.
As communication became easier and technology enabled rapid globalization, CSR expanded to include nutrition, the environment, and responses to issues such as international conflict (including aid provision) and a wave of anti-Americanism that targeted institutions like McDonald’s.
This decade pushed CSR into strategy. Corporate governance and ethics became central to every departmental function, much like the graph on the left.
For Bannan, this translates into a 360-degree view of the company and an oversight of not only employee engagement but also active participation in catalyzing a cultural shift. “We set priorities according to what we call the ‘Smart Zone,’ which basically means what efforts will result in win-win solutions,” she explained. Those solutions include things like “investing in energy efficiency solutions and analyzing an environmental scorecard across departments to chart progress as well as identify struggle points.”
Accompanying her presentation, attendees received a copy of McDonald’s CSR Report for 2008, titled: Responsible Food for a Sustainable Future. A couple of the goals on the back cover include:
That these goals tie in with those of the talent acquisition and education teams is not coincidental. It is this common Global Inclusion and Diversity umbrella that is ensuring a strategic approach across departments at McDonald’s. While CSR remains a small piece of the equation for them, it is clear that progress is underway as well as the recognition that CSR is, indeed, everybody’s business.
Final chapter: The Talent Acquisition team ties in growth with recruitment strategy