Today's date:
FALL 2001


Don't Trash McDonald's

Jack Greenberg, the CEO of McDonald's, was recently interviewed by Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim. His comments are excerpted from a longer conversation in the summer issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

There is an assumption that we're some big American company that exports things everywhere else to make a lot of money. Sure, we're everywhere, but so is Nokia. So is NBC, so is CNN.

(McDonald's) is a global brand, but we run our business in a fundamentally different way that ought to appeal to some critics of globalization. We are a decentralized entrepreneurial network of locally owned stores that is very flexible and adapts very well to local conditions. We offer an opportunity to entrepreneurs to run a local business with local people supplied by a local infrastructure. Each creates a lot of small businesses around it.

Second, the idea that we damage the environment. Not only is the charge (that we raise cattle on land slashed from rainforests) not true, but our environmental record is generally very good. We've never bought cattle that were anywhere near a rainforest. We've had the policy for 13 years.

Third, this issue of McDonald's as a cultural threat. We have become the symbol of everything people don't like or are worried about in terms of their own culture. I think that charge reveals a level of general insecurity about identity rather than anything about McDonald's, and it doesn't square with the facts. You know, we've been in countries such as Japan, Canada and Germany for almost 30 years. I don't see those cultures faltering because of McDonald's. In fact, I think the opposite is true.

Fourth, the idea that there's a nutritional problem with McDonald's. The facts are that we're selling meat and potatoes and bread and milk and Coca-Cola and lettuce and everything else you can buy in a grocery store. What you choose to eat is a personal issue. Every nutritionist I've talked to says a balanced diet is the key to health. You can get a balanced diet at McDonald's. It's a question of how you use McDonald's. Nobody's mad at the grocery store because you can buy potato chips and pastries there. Nobody wants a full diet of that either.

We are a lightning rod in France for a lot of criticism. But think about how consumers are behaving in France. What do the people do? Do they not vote with their feet by patronizing our stores? Are those restaurants not owned by French? Are they not buying French farmers' products? Are they not creating jobs for the advertising agency, the construction company, the real estate agent, the lawyers, the accountants? Do they not create jobs for thousands of kids who, in France in particular, have had a hard time getting into the workforce? I mean, this is a fabulous story for France. It's not being told. It is a wonderful story, not something we should be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It's a great story. Most companies can't tell this story, French or otherwise

Jose Bove (the French farmer who trashed a McDonald's site) and a handful of terrorists are more interested in using McDonald's as a convenient symbol than understanding the facts behind our business. (They should) recognize the essential local character of McDonald's and find a more appropriate target for whatever it is that they're angry about.

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