McDonald‘s has long been critiqued for contributing to obesity and chronic health problems, but this year the company’s shareholders themselves are battling over whether the company should publicly ‘fess up to their impact–specifically on child obesity. Shareholders voted on a resolution for better transparency with regards to the company’s health impact during their annual meeting, held yesterday in Oakbrook, Illinois. It’s the second year in a row that the resolution was voted down, but on the plus side: at least some are pushing for better corporate responsibility.
The resolution would have required the company to assess “the company’s policy responses to growing evidence of linkages between fast food and childhood obesity, diet-related diseases and other impacts on children’s health,” within reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information.
It’s easy to see why the proposal was shot down, but from a long-term perspective, many feel that such a report could actually do more to help the company than hurt it. As consumers continue to hold McDonald's in lower esteem–at least in part because of its lack of healthy options–it could end up boosting the brand’s image and sales to get a head start on addressing how their menu could be improved for the sake of customers’ health.
As Dr. Andrew Bremer, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, said in a statement on behalf of shareholder John Harrington:
McDonald’s can no longer ignore the spiraling costs of its business practices on our children’s health and on our health-care system.
And in an appeal to business-minded shareholders, he explained that refusing to adjust their menu and marketing, shareholders are exposing themselves to further risk; more likely to hurt the brand than boost it.
The proposal was shot down, with only 6.4% voting in its favor–but the proposal still sets a groundbreaking example for other companies.
Outgoing CEO Jim Skinner said that McDonald’s advertises responsibly to kids, and that he believes McDonald’s has done more than anyone else in fast food to offer healthy food options. We hope that his replacement has a more progressive attitude.