Lesson from McDonald’s – Stay Ahead of the NGOs

This animated Chipotle commercial telling the story of a farmer freeing his pigs from pens wasn’t exactly the most attention-grabbing spot of the Super Bowl broadcast. However, it turned out to be a good setup for the recent announcement by McDonald’s that it is requiring its suppliers to end the practice of keeping pigs in gestation pens. Here’s Bloomberg’s coverage of the story.
According to Bloomberg, Chipotle stopped buying pork from producers who used gestation pens (which highly restrict the movements of a reproducing sow) a decade ago, while McDonald’s still owned the restaurant chain.
McDonald’s reportedly came to agreements with major producers such as Cargill before it made its own announcement.
Three lessons emerge from this. One — Do not underestimate the power of activist organizations. I worked with a restaurant chain that was under pressure because PETA was complaining that it unfairly treated fish.
Two — Stay ahead of the curve. McDonald’s made its move ahead of any serious public criticism. Animal rights activists have complained about the practice for years, but no credible threats were made to McRibs in the form of boycotts, occupying booths or blocking drive-thrus. McDonald’s anticipated the trend, adapted its supply chain and then announced.
Third — Manage your communications. McD’s announced the change jointly with an organization that could have been its enemy in a public opinion battle — the Humane Society of the U.S. With that step it didn’t just turn a potential negative into a positive — it simply skipped the negative potential altogether.
In all three ways, McDonald’s showed it recognized the potential influence of activist organizations and knew how to turn that into positive media coverage. Please pardon my saying so, but that’s a clear case of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear.


One response to “Lesson from McDonald’s – Stay Ahead of the NGOs

  1. Great article Bill.

    You can also compare this to Nike’s experience in South East Asia.

    I enjoy reading your content and look forward to future articles.

    Tom McKeown
    International Business Lessons
    The How To source for International Business

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