Corporate America & Climate Change: McDonald’s Sets Pace for Strategies & Action in Global Fast-Food Industry

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Game changer – early adopter – first mover – tipping point – striving for excellence:  These are some of the familiar themes of their work offered by best-selling business authors. These phrases help to frame our understanding of established or emerging trends.

Peter Economy, the “leadership guy” at Inc. magazine, offers us his take on the McDonald’s food chain announcement that “will change the future of the fast-food industry”.

Leadership:  The company says that 84 percent of its trademark “McCafe Coffee” for the U.S. outlets (and 54% globally) is verified as sustainably sourced.

That means the company is on track to meet its goal of 100% sustainably sourced coffee everywhere by year 2020.

Keep in mind that the familiar golden arches food outlets sell more than 500 million cups of coffee annually.  (The company has 37,000 restaurants in 120 markets, serving 69 million people daily.)

Why take this course of action?  The company says rising temperatures may dramatically affect coffee production and so McD will work with “thousands of franchisees, suppliers and producers” on the future of coffee production — and other societal issues related to climate change.

The “size and scale” of the McD brand operations will help to make a difference in this and other climate change matters, the company thinks.

For example, on beef production – the company sells more than 1 billion pounds of beef annually – McD ranks among the highest of all fast food companies in the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare…demonstrating concern about animal welfare.

McDonald’s in 2018 works through its “Scale for Good” initiative — which includes addressing such challenges as packaging and waste, restaurant energy usage and sourcing, and beef production.

The company will work to reduce GhG emissions — to prevent 150 million metric tons of GhG emissions from release to the atmosphere by 2030. That plan aims to reduce GhG emissions related to restaurants and offices by 2030 from the 2015 base year by 36%.  There is also the commitment to reduce emissions intensity across the supply chain against 2015 levels.

Note that franchisee operations (stores), suppliers and products account for 64% of McDonald’s global emissions – the company’s effort will be among the most sweeping in its industry to address the entire footprint of operations.

If you are a McDonald’s supplier or business partner – take note!  If you are a competitor – take note!

As part of its sustainability journey, McDonald’s has adopted SDG Goal #7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 13 (Climate Action) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

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McDonald’s Stunning New Coffee Sustainability Announcement Will Completely Change the Future of Fast Food
(Friday – November 30, 2018) Source: Inc. – Today, fast-food giant McDonald’s made a stunning announcement that will change the future of the fast-food industry. According to this announcement, 84 percent of McDonald’s McCafé coffee for U.S. restaurants (and 54 percent…

Philanthropy Over Policy Equals Plutocracy

LarryChecco_Photo_LargeGuest commentary by Larry Checco

Philanthropy verses policy. What’s at stake? In the United States of America, perhaps our entire democratic process.

At a recent Brookings Institution event that focused on income inequality, John Prideaux, Washington correspondent for The Economist, was asked what a “good unequal society” would look like.

Prideaux replied that “a lot of the things we think are public goods would be provided for privately…in a sort of philanthropic way.” He added that this would entail a revival “of the 18th century idea of the obligation of those at the top of the income spectrum towards those at the bottom. (my emphasis)”

Prideaux gave an off-handed example of how the Gates Foundation perhaps — his fingers crossed — could provide better “welfare” to the people than “any government bureaucracy.”

Fast forward to a recent op ed piece in The Washington Post, written by a husband and wife team of obvious affluence, influence, and good will.

John and Carol Saeman, both devout Catholics, give generously of their time and treasure to the charitable works of their church (John is president of an investment and management company), as well as to other more laic (nonclerical, lay) organizations, including those run by people such as the billionaire Koch Brothers.

“Helping the poor…requires a fundamental change in how our society—and government—understands and seeks to address poverty,” they say in their op ed piece. “For us, promoting limited government alongside the Kochs” is in keeping with “Pope Francis’ call to love and serve the poor.”

The Koch organization that the Saeman’s ardently support is called Freedom Partners, a nonprofit organization composed of around 200 members, each paying a minimum US$100,000 in annual dues.

In 2012, Freedom Partners raised $256 million, making grants worth a total of $236 million to conservative organizations prior to the midterm elections, including Tea Party groups and organizations opposed to The Affordable Care Act. Your average middle class guy is probably not a member.

Regardless of the politics they embrace, wittingly or unwittingly, both Prideaux and the Saeman’s put forth the perfect scenario for a plutocracy—namely a society where wealthy people like the Koch brothers, the Gateses and others should determine and finance the common good verses employing the democratic process of the people.

In short, they are advocating philanthropy over policy, which leads us down a very slippery slope, folks.

When government works, policy reflects the will of We, the People. We elect political leaders whose job it is to pass laws and appropriate funds that promote the common good. If we don’t like the laws they pass or the funds they appropriate we have the opportunity, privilege and right to vote them out.

When it comes to philanthropy, as someone who has worked in the nonprofit sector for the better part of four decades, I can say with great confidence we run the real and great risk of relying on the kindness—and whimsy—of strangers.

If a huge philanthropic organization like the Gates Foundation decides to change course, what recourse do we, the people, have? Nada.

As imperfect and dysfunctional as our government is, I’m not willing to hand it over to the rich, regardless of their noble and good intentions—especially when it comes to defining the common good. Over the past 30 years or so, we’ve witnessed how that good has often translated into less taxes for them and less good for the rest of us.

One last point.

In their op ed piece, the Saeman’s make the argument that our welfare system encourages dependency and denies dignity to the poor. They leave out the fact that many people who work 40 hours a week at minimum wage for major corporations like Wal-Mart, McDonalds and many other large, well-heeled corporations lose dignity by having to rely on government programs to make ends meet, including food stamps.

BTW– in 2012, Forbes reported that just six Walmart heirs have as much wealth as 42 percent of all Americans. Say what!

Want to give people dignity? Rather than philanthropy, let’s pay hardworking folks a wage they can live and raise a family on. I guarantee you that people like the Waltons, Kochs and others in their economic stratosphere won’t miss a meal by doing so—and we won’t have to rely as much on their philanthropy.

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Larry Checco is principal of Checco Communications, a consulting firm that helps organizations define who they are, what they do, how they do it–and why anyone should care. Contact:  www.checcocomm.net

Contents © 2014 by Larry Checco – All Rights Reserved

We’re a Long Way from NYC’s Stonewall Inn, But Still a Ways to Go for Corporate LGBT Policies, Says Investor Coalition

by Hank Boerner – Chairman, G&A Institute

We’ve come a long way since the gay & lesbian communities mobilized and began in earnest their civil rights campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s and into the1990s. It was the New York City Police Department’s wrongheaded “raid” on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village neighborhood in June 1969 that provided the important spark for the long-term, winning campaign by LGBT community for equal rights and equal protection under the laws of the land. “Stonewall” became a rallying cry for the next installment of the continuing “journey” of the civil rights movement in the United States.

The 1960s/1970s were the era of civil rights protests — we were involved in or witnessed and were affected by the civil rights / voting rights movement; the counter-culture “revolution” (remember the hippies?); the drive for adoption of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution); and the anti-war movement protests against the conflict in Vietnam.  These were catalysts as well for the LGBT equal rights warriors of the decades that followed the 1969 Stonewall protests.

Finally, in recent years, after years of campaigning by LGBT advocates, most states have been adopting protective measures to protect the LGBT community.  Same gender marriage is a reality in many U.S. jurisdictions.

On November 7, 2014 The New York Times carried an update — it was a “milestone year” for LGBT rights advocates, the publication explained.  Voters in the 3Ms — Maine, Maryland and Minnesota – favored same-sex marriage; the first openly-gay US Senator (Tammy Baldwin) was elected by Wisconsin voters.

Still, there was vocal and often fierce opposition to same-sex marriage and equal protection under the law for LGBT citizens.

About LGBT Policies and the US Corporate Community

Many large companies (estimate:70 companies in the S&P 500 Index to date) have adopted non-discrimination policies to protect LGBT employees in the United States, says the 2014 Corporate Equality Index (a national benchmarking tool of the Human Rights Campaign).

We see these policies and programs for inclusion described in the many sustainability and responsibility reports we examine as exclusive data partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the United States of America.

Still, legal protections for LGBT citizens are not sufficient in numerous US jurisdictions. “Homophobic” policies and attitudes still reign in too many US cities and states and local communities.

And policies, attitudes, practices in other countries?  Well, that’s really a problem, say sustainable & responsible investment advocates — and steps are being taken to address the situation.

The S&R investment advocacy campaign is focused on the LGBT employees of US firms working overseas.  In countries like Russia, one of the world’s largest industrial economies, which has harsh anti-LGBT policies. The US investor group points out that 79 countries consider same sex relationships illegal; 66 countries provide “some” protection at least in the workplace; and in some countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.

In a business environment that continues to globalize in every aspect, with American large-cap companies operating everywhere, the investor coalition is calling on US companies to extend their LGBT policies on anti-discrimination and equal benefits policies to employees outside the United States. A letter was sent by the coalition to about 70 large-cap companies (the signatories manage US$210 billion in assets.

Shelley Alpern, Director Social Research & Shareholder Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management explains: “Today, most leading U.S. corporations now have equitable policies on their books for their [American-based] LGBT employees. Ther’s a dearth of information on how many extend policies outside of the U.S. In starting this dialogue, we hope to identify best practices and start to encourage all companies to adopt them.”

The objective of the shareowner advocacy campaign is to stimulate interest in the issue and create a broad dialogue that leads to greater protection of LGBT employees of US companies operating outside of the United States.

Mari Schwartzer, coordinator of shareholder advocacy at NorthStar Asset Management compliments US firms with effective non-discrimination policies and states:  “While we are pleased that so many companies have adopted non-discrimination policies in the USA which incorporate equal protections for LGBT employees, the next phase of implementation is upon us — we must ensure that international employees are receiving equal benefits and are adequately protected.  Particularly those stationed in regions hostile to LGBT individuals…”

Signatories of the letters sent to companies include these sustainable & responsible investing advocates:  Calvert Investments; Jantz Management; Miller/Howard Investments; Office of the Comptroller of New York City; Pax World Management; Sustainability Group/Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge; Trillium Asset Management; Unitarian Universalist Association; Walden Asset Management; Zevin Asset management.

Companies contacted include:  Aetna, AIG, Allstate, Altria, Amazon, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Baxter, Best Buy, Boeing, Cardinal health, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco, Citigroup, Coca Cola, Colgate Palmolive, Costco, CVS Health, Delta, Dow Chemical, DuPoint, EMC, FedEx, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Dynamics, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Home Depot, Honeywell, Human, IBM Ingram Micro, Intel, J&J, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, McKesson, Merck, MetLife, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, P&G, Prudential, Sears, Sprint, Starbucks, Target, Texas Instruments, United Continental, United HealthGroup, United Technologies, UPS, Verizon, Visa, Walgreen, Walt Disney, Walmart, Wellpoint, Wells Fargo.

Summing up the heart of the issue for investors (and corporate employees):  “Corporations must take the extra step to ensure consistent application of LGBT-inclusive workplace policies throughout their operations, regardless of location,” said Wendy Holding, Partner, the Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge.