McDonald's shows off CSR credentials in debut report

LOS ANGELES: McDonald's unveiled its first "social responsibility report

LOS ANGELES: McDonald's unveiled its first "social responsibility report

last week, detailing the fast-food chain's contributions to positive causes around the globe.

The 46-page report, with a letter of introduction from chairman and CEO Jack Greenberg is part of a more open approach to communications that the company is cultivating.

"Transparency is the way to go,

said McDonald's media relations officer Walt Riker. "That's what our customers want, what our employees want, and what our shareholders want. They're hungry for information and communication."

The document comes after a difficult PR year for the hamburger giant.

In 2001, McDonald's, which has more than 29,000 restaurants in 121 countries, faced a scandal when an FBI investigation found one of its sweepstakes contests had been rigged by a security official at the marketing company hired to handle promotions. Top-prize-winning game pieces were stolen by a Simon Marketing employee, and redeemed by accomplices.

McDonald's subsequently fired the company, and held an alternative sweepstakes.

The company also faced a lawsuit last year charging that its French fries contained beef extract, despite the fact that the ingredient was not listed in customer information. A group of predominately Hindu vegetarians - who do not eat beef for religious reasons - won national publicity on the issue after filing a class-action suit.

McDonald's paid $10 million to Hindu and vegetarian organizations in a settlement, issued an apology, and changed its ingredient reporting methods.

The responsibility report, posted on the company website, details partnerships with environmental and conservation organizations on issues such as recycling and the reduction of certain antibiotic use in poultry.

On the community side, McDonald's highlights its continuing work with the Ronald McDonald House Charities (which provide lodging for families of sick children), and a $5 million grant to UNICEF for immunization projects in Africa, among other efforts.

Part of Greenberg's letter reads, "We know we are not perfect. Our hope is that this first (report) will begin to demonstrate that we are backing up our words with substantive actions."

"This report is a snapshot,

said Riker. "I think most people will be pleasantly surprised at what we're doing."

The report was prepared after an internal social responsibility assessment carried out by San Francisco-based Business For Social Responsibility (BSR), a non-governmental organization, and promises that McDonald's will conduct ongoing assessments biennially.

McDonald's also recently allowed an NPR reporter to visit poultry and beef facilities, resulting in a multipart report on All Things Considered.

"It was a huge step because it involved opening up,

said Riker of the tours.

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