McDonald's CSR Campaign

Yin Ningwei
Public Relations and Communications
Student Name: Yin Ningwei
Student Number: 570516
Lecture: Dr Barbara Inglis
Case study-McDonald’s Skeptical Healthy and Nutrition Food
Executive summary
This case study will analyze McDonalds’ initial CSR-oriented A-Z campaign through
CSR theories and concepts.
My argument is about discussion about whether the A-Z
campaign is a ‘true’ CSR campaign.
The CSR campaign is a PR campaign launched
in the UK supported by an online advertisement, webpage communication and
processing CSR activities such as litter patrol, MAAP program and employee skill
The campaign was lasting for over six months and aimed reassure the
high quality of McDonald’s food to parents and highlight CSR commitment.
as a new rising concept in PR industry, it mainly promotes the environment and social
welfare, aiming primarily to build sustainable society as well as the business.
communication is one major part of CSR activities, which will be a main dimension
of my evaluation of McDonald’s campaign.
The analysis of the case will base on
two major parts: first is the evaluation phrase of the CSR campaign depending on
differing opinions of literatures, the second is focused on the goals and outcomes
measurements of the Campaign.
By my analysis of the study, the A-Z campaign is
more like a trial of CSR campaign but not a ‘true’ one that needs further commitment.
The Organization
Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first drive-in restaurant with a menu of nine
items in 1948.
McDonald's now primarily sells hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken,
French fries, breakfast items, soft drinks, milkshakes and desserts. In order to
appealing to changing consumer tastes, the company has included salads, fish, wraps,
smoothies and fruit in its menu.
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Public Relations and Communications
According to the company’s website, McDonald’s positions itself as global leading
food service retailer.
And McDonald's brand mission is to be customers' favorite
place and way to eat and drink. As Lubin and Badkar stated, McDonald's has not
been affected by the recession and acted as an unstoppable global force. The fast food
giant reaches in 119 countries and serves over 75 burgers every second over the world
(Side Dish). As a giant business, McDonald’s provides job opportunities to 1.8
million people over the world, and one in every eight American workers estimated by
1996 (McDonald's own estimate in 1996 via Fast Food Nation).
independent suppliers collaborate with the Company to satisfy the needs of being high
standard and specific (SEC).
The Company franchises and operates McDonald’s
restaurants. It operates 33,510 restaurants in 119 countries, 27,075 of which are
franchised or licensed and the Company operates 6,435.
The issue
Although identified as the Top 10 valuable brand over the world, Macdonald’s cannot
escape from being claimed about how badly its core product-food impact on people,
which is a threatening issue of fast-food industry.
In the 1990s, Fast Food Nation *(2003) and Supersize Me (2004)* had been plenty
sources for written and broadcast to tarnish the golden arches’ shine (Salisbury, 2011).
Here I take a bad example of PR reaction by McDonald’s regarding the release of film
Fast Food Nation “We have media days and fact sheets that are available through our
web site, as well as platforms that will afford us any opportunity to talk about what’s
important to McDonald’s.
We cannot be overly concerned about anyone else
As a food maker, the main ethical criticism is about the food McDonald’s offering to
people and it is a consistently one that challenges the organization. What are the
ingredients of the food, healthy and natural?
There are claims about McDonald’s
contributing to obesity of people and child, claims about using genetically modified
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Public Relations and Communications
food, claims about targeting child as to build their diet habit.
It’s been effective to
target child that approximately nine out of 10 American children eat McDonald’s and
even before they can speak, they recognize McDonald’s (Robbins, 2010).
And in 2010, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)'s launched
"Consequences" ( ad takes dead
aim at McDonald's high-fat menu. It warned some health risks: heart disease, Type II
diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
With almost one million views
on YouTube as well as worldwide newspaper and broadcast coverage including the
New York Times, The Guardian and CNN, the ad warned and changed people’s
attitude to their diet in part (Robbins, 2010).
Criticism about McDonald’s food is lasting even though many efforts had been made
to clear it from providing dangerous food for the society.
Public Relations Function
In this case, the function of public relations it best reflects is stakeholder relations
Primary organizational stakeholders include employees and managers,
customers, suppliers, and the firm’s owners (Harrison, Bosse & Phillips, 2010).
Stakeholder management is a strategic performance of corporations as constructing
good stakeholder relations relates to the acquisition and development of competitive
resources (Dyer and Singh, 1998; Gulati, 1999).
From a PR perspective, what information and content essential to deliver to
stakeholders in a campaign, how to successfully apply stakeholder identification, how
practitioners customize communication approaches to different stakeholders, effective
relationship building and management methods are critical factors of my analysis of
the case.
The outcome of the campaign like what competitive performance it did,
what perception and reputation it gained from stakeholders’ perspectives and what
kind of relationship it maintained with the stakeholder are important to be analyzed.
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Public Relations and Communications
Case context
I picked up the case campaign based McDonald’s PR action in the UK; Leo Burnett
( in 2011, which is a
CSR-focused marketing (PR) strategy.
The PR campaign emphasized on MacDonald’s efforts and investments in employees,
community and environmental issues, as well as delivering food-quality messages.
minute TV advertisement, print media coverage, in addition to social-media and
online elements devised by PR Agency Razorfish were collaborated to maximize the
effect of the campaign.
McDonald’s delivery trucks and 1200 UK restaurants also
carried the designed images and messages (pragency & the inspirationroom).
A web
accompanying the campaign named ‘what makes McDonald’s’ was set for food
questions. Publics can find and ask any questions, doubts about McDonald’s food
quality while it communicate more in an asymmetrical way that the web inculcate
positive food messages to viewers instead of providing free talk and communication
Alistair Macrow, McDonald’s Marketing Vice-president in UK stated: “Over the past
three years, our advertising focus has been primarily on the ingredients that go into
our food and where they come from.
While our brand advertising will continue to
satisfy this interest, we feel the time is right to start celebrating the good work we do
in other areas of our business. Even our most dedicated followers will learn
something new.”
As food quality and safety is a continuing and challenging issue of the fast-food
industry, which has the most powerful impact on McDonald’s business.
McDonald’s keeps launching varied campaigns to build its healthy, fun and nutrition
food image. The case I pick is stated not only about delivering quality food but also
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Public Relations and Communications
including corporate social responsibility issues, however, I suppose that it is a new
way for McDonald’s to enhance its food-quality message in line with increasingly
significant CSR public relations communication approach.
Theoretical literature
Stakeholder theory
Freeman (1984) described a stakeholder as, “any individual or group who can affect
or is affected by the actions, decisions, policies, practices, or goals of the
organization”. The stakeholder perspective images a firm lies at the core of
stakeholders networks (Barringer and Harrison, 2000; Rowley, 1997) acting as a
complex system for exchanging goods, services, information, technology, talent,
influence, money, and other resources (Freeman, 1984).
The empirical stakeholder literature itself reinforces the idea that financial rectums are
primary measurement of value created by the firm (Harrison, Wicks, 2013).
creation will be accumulated over time with firm’s strenuous seek to serve the
interests of a broad group of stakeholders.
Economic measurements are major
concern of the management process but the value perceived by the stakeholders who
involve in creating it is more challenging for managers to examine.
It is impossible to equally treat every stakeholder; instead maintaining valuable
relationships with a few dominant groups is more beneficial to corporations.
opportunities identification, problem solve and interests alignment.
It is a
relationship-building tool and act as the core element of strategic public relations.
But even perfect classification of stakeholder is made, Rowley (1997, p. 889) claimed
that the real argument lies, not in the “classifications of the different types of
stakeholder influences”, but in “how firms are likely to respond to stakeholder
influences” (Rowley, 1997, p. 889) and from there in “predicting organizational
responses” (Rowley, 1997, p. 890).
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Public Relations and Communications
There are a few key elements of the concept of corporate social responsibility
according to Buchholz’s (1991) examination of varied definitions of this concept.
Corporations have responsibilities beyond profit-focused goods and services
production, which require ethical behaviors serving a wider range of human values,
protect and improve social welfare.
Because the concept of CSR is relatively vague and ambiguous comparing to other
concepts of PR literature, it was not applied widely while with increasing study of the
concept, now CSR has become a more remarkable concern and activity that many
corporations believe it primarily works for their survival (Esrock & Leichty, 1998;
Sen & Bahattachrya, 2001).
According to Kim (2011)’s study, CSR communications is for changing the insights
of the public and build corporation’s own well being.
When consumers associate the
company with strong CSR, automatically they sustain a company is more likely to
make responsible products.
Hutton et al. (2001) maintained reputation management
or perception management is becoming the main public relations function favored by
abandoning relationship management one.
Although CSR has pursued growing focus in academic research, the general
significance of CSR on financial performance or social responses is dubious in
previous research.
Some research found no associations (Page & Fearn, 2005), but
others proved some positive relationships between CSR and consumer responses
(David, Kline, & Dai, 2005; Pava & Krausz, 1996; Kim, Haley, & Schumann, 2009;
Wigley, 2008).
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Public Relations and Communications
Sustainability (Signitzer, & Prexl, 2008)
Corporate sustainability is a newborn concept in management of business.
In many
companies, for the sake of long-term profit maximization, corporate sustainability is
increasingly becoming a corporate value and being integrated into business strategy.
It benefits corporations to be economically viable, socially responsible, and
environmentally sound
Dow Jones Sustainability Group Index (DJSGI) has demonstrated that in fact,
corporate sustainability can offer up to maximize corporate profits and thus positively
impacting on shareholder value.
Public relations practitioners have adopted CSC as a prospective field of action,
which has rapidly grown as a new tool for valuable communication.
sustainability goals, CSR, sustainability of products and production processes, and
stakeholder behavior are main topics of CSC that critically relate to social justice,
environmental awareness and economic success. CSC also contributes to image
improvement, license to operate, fulfillment of customer, and shareholder demands.
Companies use CSC mainly to accomplish broader sustainability goals of
organization management.
CSC is defined as a societal approach which some companies engage in considering a
public case focused on two aspects: first, what it can contribute to communicating
sustainable development issue of an organization, and second, how it can help the
society to move closer to sustainable development by informing, increasing awareness
and giving knowledge of certain issue to stakeholder groups specifically.
Stakeholder theory and CSR
From its early development, stakeholder theory merely emphasizes social
responsibility while effective management of a broad group of stakeholders is that
matters (Freeman, 1984; Walsh, 2005).
Some strategic management scholars
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believe that overemphasis on society as a stakeholder seems to have led stakeholder
theory to be about managing social interests responsibly rather than managing a firm
As Sisodia et al. (2007: 17) express it, ‘How is it that these companies
can be so generous to everyone who costs them money (customers, employees,
suppliers, communities) and still deliver superior. . .returns to investors?’ On the
other hand, some studies demonstrate that a positive relationship between CSR and
firm performance is in support of stakeholder theory (Orlitzky, Schmidt, and Rynes,
Links between issue and literature
Clearly, I choose one main theory-stakeholder theory to address the case campaign.
I would link the issue with this theory in two aspects, first is value generation of
stakeholders as mainly to suppliers and customers. Because the food is directly
associated with these two sides. Suppliers determine where the food comes from
and consumers determine whether the food can be sold out.
They are main part of
the value making for the organization therefore making value for them is critical.
And second, in relate to stakeholder identification, it underpinned how PR
practitioners construct the campaign.
Primary audience of the action, specific
information targeting the main stakeholder group (child and parents are the most
important one in the case), mode, design, time and theme are all determining factors
in delivering quality-food messages.
CSR and CSC approaches for public relations communication are also primary for
analyzing the case campaign as ‘A-Z campaign’ is CSR-based. Food safety and
quality is an important issue of societal welfare thus referring to CSR approach, how
PR practitioners communicate corporation’s social responsible food management with
stakeholders as well as publics. Also, to what degree the campaign has changed and
shaped audiences’ views and perceptions of McDonald’s ethical performance about
food quality so far.
As to CSC approach, what has McDonald’s done to guarantee
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Public Relations and Communications
food safety and quality is not only for CSR campaign communication but also for its
goal of sustainable development. McDonald’s relies on its food for long-term profits,
therefore, whether and how this campaign delivers information about sustainable food
message with a CSC approach will be analyzed.
Internal Performance of A-Z Campaign
Vladimíra and Katarína (2012, p.145) supposed that effective internal communication
transfers the right information to the right people, playing as a critical role in
engaging employees towards compliance with principles of responsibilities.
Therefore, in this part I would argue whether the A-Z campaign deliver a well
functioned internal communication with employees in satisfying its CSR orientation.
‘L’ in the campaign represents the ‘litter patrollers walk’ of McDonald’s CSR
engagement for environment performance and making the local community tidy.
From its online statement (McDonald’s 2013), staff from every restaurant across the
UK, go out at least three times a day to pick up McDonald's packaging and other litter.
This is one of the programs provided by the corporation to engage employees, which
is in line with Leeora’s (2013) involved communication for CSR. Moreover, Leeora
(2013) assumes that strategic communication is obtaining employee commitment to
the CSR activities first and then making it external.
As to the A-Z campaign, it is an
initiative for McDonald’s to communicate “litter patrollers walk’, which is one of its
main CSR activities positively to the external audiences, based on employee’s
long-term involvement of picking litter. According to campaign supported website
(Litter), “we’ve been working hard for more than 30 years to try and reduce the
amount of litter on our streets’.
In addition, focusing on the good things done by McDonald’s of the A-Z campaign,
McDonald’s do link CSR with its employees.
From Philip’s view (2012, p.95), ‘how
employees are treated is the litmus test of CSR for a company’, the A-Z campaign
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draw attention to the qualifications that staff can gain while working at McDonald’s,
including GCSEs (2010), A-Levels (2008) and its apprenticeship (2009) in
multi-skilled hospitality (Anna, 2011).
Employees are provided skill-learning
opportunities that comply with the perception of ‘company values and treats
employees fair and well’ tested in GolinHarris surveys (2006-2010).
However, more than involving employee for activities, according to Shirish’s (2010,
p.210) study, employee involvement in developing and implementing CSR programs,
activities and initiatives categorized into internal support is a key factor of success
CSR performance.
In this case, from employee engagement for CSR, the A-Z
campaign with the advertisement and webpage communication is a highlight of good
things employees have done rather than “helping define organization’s relationship to
society’ (Leeora 2013).
Additionally, according to Vladimíra and Katarína (2012,
p.145), A well-functioning (internal) communication is an organization, which
ensures employees understand and cooperate in sharing common goals and form
desirable attitudes and behaviors. Hence, the advertisement and webpage delivering
what the employees are doing good for the community is not enough to ensure a well
produced CSR campaign which needs not only actions but perceptions.
External Performance of A-Z Campaign
In the process of external CSR communication, stakeholders are main audiences of
the campaign including the customers, suppliers and the public.
Michael and Mark
(2006, p.6) illustrated that ‘effective CSR requires an understanding of the social
dimensions of the company’s competitive context—the “outside-in” linkages that
affect its ability to improve productivity and execute strategy’.
Related and
supporting industries are one component of the diamond frame constructing the
competitive context, demanding availability of local suppliers and cluster industries
(Michael & Mark 2006, p.6). One of the main elements of the A-Z campaign is
highlighting the McDonald’s Agricultural Assurance Program, characterizing brand’s
collaboration with local suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of its supply
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chain (Popsop). And through my research, the McDonald’s Europe Flagship Farms
project based on the MAAP (2010-2013) encourages dialogue between farmers and
plays as a farming community for conjunct improvement and innovation.
In a word, the program and the project are main supply chain value making CSR
activities, taking social conditions into consideration to form long run strategies
within competitive context.
Local availability of supporting industries is one of the
aspects being opportunities for CSR initiatives, which is highlighted by McDonald’s
CSR performance, being communicated by the A-Z campaign (Michael & Mark
Indicated by Leeora (2013), endorsed communication strategy is designed for general
public and customers, which is the key to avoiding appearance of being self-serving.
In the ad of A-Z campaign, alphabets are delivering messages about green products
such as free-range eggs and services with CSR attributes that are required by strategic
endorsed communication (Leeora 2013).
In addition, pointing to the website
supporting the campaign, customers can find detailed information on its CSR
initiatives in a story telling way, which is supported by Jan, Laura, Sabrina’s (2013,
p.58) finding: narrative storylines communicating the CSR activities encourages
positive perceptions that enhances the satisfaction and loyalty, leading to an effective
CSR communication. More than the information delivered by the advertisement,
hundreds of good things McDonald’s that are doing or have done are storied on the
website for reading. On the other hand, as Vanja (3E company 2008) pointed out the
CSR communication aim for customers is providing information about not only
current but also future initiatives that I can rarely find on the webpage.
Vladimíra and Katarína (2012, p. 147) has proposed that all the CSR activities of the
company should be provided to the public in details with transparency, which is
mainly satisfied by the website supporting the A-Z campaign with details but arguable
of transparency.
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Public Relations and Communications
In contrary, there are still a few aspects of the A-Z campaign to make it a less credible
CSR initiative. Leeora (2013) maintained that the effective communication with the
public and customers needs third party communications through employees and/or
However, looking through the campaign, there are no signs of no-self
communication, all the information are produced by the McDonald’s and delivered to
the public and audiences even excluding voice of their employees who are
participants of the CSR activities. And from Shirish’s (2010, p.219) perspective,
external support, namely, government support, NGO support and society support are
necessary for CSR communication and campaign, which cannot be found in the A-Z
campaign. By its ad and website communication, no comment or dialogue from the
third party are included as main messages for reference.
Focused on its website communication tool, it is designed as an “interactive map of
CSR activity rather than a "geo-navigation" map that only pinpoints CSR projects’
suggested by Silvia, Laura, and Belén’s (2012, p.33) study including twitter,
Facebook functions and comment-respond mechanism. While, only a few stories
gain audiences’ responds even though asking for the feedback, which indicates
McDonald’s failure in maximizing impact of social media channels on stakeholder
involvement by conversations (Silvia, Laura &Belén 2012, p.33). When evaluating
the credibility of the webpage, absence of third party links challenges its stand (Silvia,
Laura &Belén 2012, p.33). On the other hand, customers’ involvement is a key
factor in CSR activities as Jan, Laura, Sabrina (2013, p.58) assumed that message of
CSR activities interpreted by customers would be enhanced when they feel being
involved in.
Overall, a good and successful CSR campaign should further
stakeholder dialogue (Vanja 2008); provide opportunities for feedback from the
customers behalf (Mihaela, Sorina & Raluca 2011) as to the A-Z campaign, it inclined
to be a one-way communication by pushing information to the stakeholder without
response, however, responsiveness is essential (Leeora 2013).
Furthermore, except
for communicating CSR activities for environment and society welfare, companies
should inform the public about how assesses environmental and social risks of its
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business activities (Vladimíra & Katarína 2012) and hence effectively assessing the
responsive CSR doings.
CSR Goals/Outcomes
From Reynolds’ (2011) perspective, the campaign is CSR-focused for ‘featuring a
series of McDonald’s related ethical initiatives’, and Alex (2011) identified the A-Z
as a CSR PR campaign for its emphasis on MacDonald’s efforts and investments in
employees, community and environmental issues.
In comparison, analysis of
whether the A-Z campaign is a ‘true’ CSR initiative should base on ISO 26000 that
provides a more comprehensive definition of organization taking social responsibility.
From goals’ perspective, by Leo Burnett’s (Leo Brunett 2013) definition, the A-Z
campaign is aimed to reassure the high quality of McDonald’s food to parents and
highlight CSR commitment for the first time. Differ from the main goal of CSR as
contributing to health and the welfare of society (ISO 26000), the A-Z campaign
seems to tell a nice CSR story for improving its product image. Certainly, the
activities communicated by the campaign have aspects for society and environment
weal, however, without sufficient measurement or demonstration of being
On the other hand, the campaign did not prove itself as sufficiently valuing the
expectations of stakeholders (ISO 26000) because regular dialogue with stakeholder
and customer/employee feedback that are essential for CSR assessment and
measurement (Michaela & Kateřina, 2012) are not actively encouraged but instead
one-way inculcation domains the campaign.
Walter (2012) believed that ‘CSR
communication is not just talking on and about CSR but is CSR in its best sense’, thus
measurement and integration of CSR communication throughout the organization
(ISO 26000) is important in implementation of CSR campaign. Whereas, the A-Z
campaign is sampling McDonald’s CSR activities, mainly talking on CSR and the
website (2012) supporting the campaign providing diverse and CSR activities without
interconnection that is a main problem of success CSR activity.
Last but not least,
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evaluation of CSR benefits (Shirish, 2010) for the company as well as for the society,
environment and stakeholder is crucial part of CSR initiative, which is not completely
included in the A-Z campaign.
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Public Relations and Communications
To sum up, the essence of a ‘true’ CSR is to make contribution to social welfare, be
responsible to the environment, stakeholder and the public and help to build
sustainable business and good reputation for the organization.
At the phase of
evaluation of a true and effective CSR campaign, employee is a prior internal CSR
component; involvement and education are significant for CSR communication. By
the analysis of the A-Z campaign, I saw responsible employee voluntary and
participation as part of involvement while no employees’ ideas and opinions in
planning CSR activities and feedback or recommendations being included in the
campaign. As to the external communication of the campaign, varied message of the
McDonald’s CSR initiatives are accessible; supply chain value making is included in
contents; website enables an interactive communication pattern and customers are in
the heart of the campaign.
However, lack of third-party commitment, wanting
stakeholder dialogue and inactivate interaction on website make the campaign a less
credible and trustful CSR initiative. Concerning the goal and outcome measurement
of the A-Z campaign, it is not in accordance with the main goal of a CSR activity for
offering up to the society and environment instead focusing more on building green
image for the products and the organization. Also, measurement is an important part
of the CSR campaign, which is missing in the process of A-Z campaign, making it
incomplete and insufficient.
Therefore, as the McDonald’s performed the CSR-oriented campaign for the first time,
I cannot definitely judge it as a non-CSR initiative for the aspects of CSR it
unsatisfied while I would say it is a trial of CSR campaign/communication by the
organization and it is not a ‘true’ CSR initiative that needs improvement and specific
positioning for its CSR intention.
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Public Relations and Communications
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Walter B.L., 2012, ‘Is CSR communication just talking on and about CSR?’, 26
Yin Ningwei
Public Relations and Communications
Yin Ningwei
Public Relations and Communications