Stakeholder engagement drivers – Part 4: enlightened self-interest

In the last post in this series we looked at enlightened self-interest, illustrating the concepts with examples of Walmart’s sustainability initiatives. This blog explores McDonald’s journey towards sustainability.

McDonalds is one of the many companies that have embarked on a journey towards sustainability following negative publicity. In 1990 a group of protestors in London distributed What’s wrong with McDonalds? pamphlets leading to the “McLibel” case that was finally resolved in 2005. Over the last two decades McDonalds has been criticised for contributing to obesity, destruction of the rain forest, animal cruelty and human rights abuses.

Towards sustainability

McDonalds philanthropic initiatives started well before the McLibel days, with the establishment of Ronald McDonald House charities in the 1970s. In the last decade, the company has moved from philanthropy to broader sustainability aspirations. Two initiatives of note are the Weight Watcher’s partnership and Rainforest Alliance coffee.

McDonalds now offer meals that have WeightWatcher’s point ratings, providing customers with choices other than their traditional fare. They have taken other initiatives to improve the health of their offerings – sugar levels in buns have been reduced and healthier oils are used for deep-frying.

Promoting and selling Rain Forest Alliance coffee is a sustainability initiative that has multiple benefits. Growers are guaranteed better prices for product. Their families benefit through the provisions of social initiatives such as schools, and growing systems are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. As companies like McDonalds make products such as certified coffee available, they enable consumers to help contribute directly to the well-being of those that grow the product, thus creating virtue and connection throughout the value chain.

 Local engagement

The McDonalds store near where I live has been frequently upgraded and provides an attractive, clean and comfortable environment for customers. Free wi-fi is available. With its sustainability initiatives and in-store experience, McDonalds positions itself for improved customer engagement.

Any large company is easy prey for criticism and if you want to find fault, you will find it. But I believe that it is important to acknowledge their good efforts and encourage more.

When I look at McDonalds through the three drivers lens, there is sufficient evidence that they are operating in the enlightened self-interest zone. Another way to check perceptions is to compare them to other fast food chains. Where I live, I don’t see much evidence any of McDonalds competitors moving into this zone. What do you see?

This three level model is a useful tool for a broad assessment of a company’s engagement and sustainability drivers.

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