Pigs, Beef, McDonalds, and Green Century

Advocates and Actions Corporate Responsibility Ideas and Issues Wade's World


            Marble Falls      We all know McDonalds.   It’s a brand known around the world.  The company has made so many billions of hamburgers under the golden arches that they no longer build signs that calculate the numbers.  Many today likely don’t realize that they ever did.  McDonalds is simply a fact of life.  There are people in America who believe the St. Louis Arch was copied from McDonalds, rather than predating its Orange County, California beginnings.  If you think you know everything about McDonalds, you may not fully realize that they are welshers.  They make agreements but then rather than honoring them, slow walk them and don’t abide by the settled terms.

We learned more about this talking on Wade’s World recently to Leslie Samuelrich, the president of Green Century Capital Management, based in Boston.  I’ve known Leslie for decades.  She was running something called the Green Project, which recruited young people who wanted to take action on environmental issues, trained them as organizers, and then assigned or contracted them to environmental campaigns.  ACORN and our allies benefited from their work tremendously when they detailed a half-dozen Green Corp women for weeks to us when we successfully fought the privatization of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board.  I was a quick and easy “yes”, when Leslie asked me to do some training and presentations to Green Corp recruits later in Denver and Boston.

I had reached out for Leslie when suddenly she was big news.  She was one of two people nominated to be on the board of McDonalds by controversial corporate raider Carl Ichan.  He had bought a couple of hundred shares of stock and nominated them to protest the company’s treatment of pigs.  Yes, really!  Leslie explained that McDonalds had made an agreement to not put pigs in cages during their gestation period or pregnancy some years ago, and had basically reneged on the whole affair.  In their public relations spin in response to this challenge, they have been claiming several different stories on when they put pigs in the pens and when they take them out, none of which seems to be true, if I understood Leslie correctly.

This double dealing on agreements seems to be as much of the McDonalds business model as flipping burgers.  In fact, Leslie and her outfit at Green Century, along with other allies, had also pushed the company several years ago and come to an agreement about the amount and kind of injections they make to cattle that end up later as burgers between the buns.  They’ve also delayed fulfillment of that agreement repeatedly.

Leslie is at best a long shot to actually be elected to the Micky D board by the shareholders.  Shareholder democracy is a Wall Street oxymoron.  There’s no such thing.  Management and big holders control these votes, and it is only news when they someone comes close to winning, since actually winning is as rare as for example, McDonalds living up to an environmental agreement.  Nonetheless, the attention Leslie and Ichan have gotten with her candidacy leaves me betting that McDonalds has to know it’s time for them to stop the double talk and deliver on their commitments and agreements.

Thanks to Leslie and Green Century we might be able to get some corporate responsibility from McDonalds rather than just fries and baloney with our order.  Here’s hoping!