Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another Good Reason Not To Eat MacDonalds

If you've ever watched Super Size Me, or paid attention during the McLibel campaigns a few years ago (the McSpotlight website seems to have ground to a halt sometime in 2005), and were running out of reasons not to take your kids to MacDonalds, help is at hand.

They are one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, a fact noted by Madpriest, who is now drinking the undrinkable and has switched to Pepsi. So if you wanted to sell your VW, cut up your visa card, throw away that old Kodak camera, stop jogging to Staples office supplies in your Adidas trainers whilst checking your Omega watch, then you can now do all of that and claim that it's on moral grounds.

The Olympic torch relay already seems to have become an unoffical competition over which country can put on a better protest than the one before. There are now real questions about who will be at the opening ceremony, and whether there will be some sort of boycott. Macavity already has a diary clash.

Whilst most of us won't get an invite to Beijing, and the chance to wrestle a policeman in London has gone, so what else can we do? I don't know how far the Olympic sponsors are using their financial muscle to lean on the Chinese authorities. I expect not much, as they'll be keen to keep their market share, rather than have it handed over to someone who makes less noise. As the MacDonalds experience shows, companies will change if they are put under pressure by their customers. A consumer boycott is on the agenda, but there are big questions about whether it will do any good, or whether it will sour relations with China at a time when we need them onside for negotiations over climate change etc. But as Thabo Mbeki's craven attitude towards Zimbabwe has shown, appeasement doesn't work. Also, if it is international companies who are modelling change through their working practices, acceptance of free speech, allowing Chrisitans and other religious groups to gather freely on their premises etc., then maybe that's more likely to make progress.

So far, not very encouraging. When a coalition of human rights groups took on the relatively soft target of China's support for the Sudanese government (rather than their internal record), here was the response from the Olympic sponsor companies:

Coca-Cola: "Not our role to give suggestions"
Lenovo: "Not Lenovo's place to comment on politics"
Adidas: "Governments have responsibility"
McDonalds: "United Nations should drive solution"
Panasonic: "Support for the Olympics is independent of local contingencies"
BHP Billiton: Failed to respond
Staples: Failed to respond
Snickers: Failed to respond
PricewaterhouseCoopers: "No comment"
Volkswagen: "I'll get German office to call you"
Visa: Failed to respond
Microsoft: Failed to respond
Samsung: Failed to respond
Eastman Kodak: Failed to respond
General Electric: Failed to respond
Omega/Swatch: Failed to respond
Manulife: Failed to respond


(PS. For reasons of balance, McD's have a corporate responsibility website. Wonder why they felt the need to do that?)

Update: this is clearly blogging issue of the day - the Huffington Post (premier league US blog) has blogged on the topic today. "The only way to clearly denounce the corrupt behavior of the Chinese government is to withdraw corporate sponsorship from the Olympics"


  1. Thanks for the inform.
    I have 3 boys 7,5, and 2.
    I eat there because they like the playground.
    I will be taking them to BK or other places that have playgrounds.
    Chucky Cheese is one of their favs.
    So, I'm cool with that!
    I want you to know that I love you blog and have added it to my favs.
    I want you to know that I love reading your blog and look forward to reading it daily if I can.
    I want you to know that I pray God's richest blessings on you, your family and ministry as you strive to reach out to the emerging generations.
    In Him,
    Kinnney Mabry

  2. The thing that bothers me is that everyone is taking the Olympics and by extension the Olympic flame so seriously. Err.. hello, it is two weeks of sporting competition. Sure it is kinda fun to watch, but aren't there other things to talk about?

    And this idea that in order to hold the games you have to escort a flame around is a bit crazy isn't it?

    How about we just get back to the idea that a bunch of people meet up to compete to see who is the best at a few sports?

  3. Joe - I agree, that would be great. The flame is a great bit of symbolism that's supposed to unite people, the passing on of the olympic flame from 1 venue to the next in one great historical line.

    However, it's a cash cow for sponsors, and a great opportunity for the host country to promote itself, and to upgrade its own sporting facilities. Like football, and increasingly cricket, the Olympics follows the money. To get pure competition you're better off getting together with a group of mates at the park. Sad but true!!