Fast food advertising

Watching TV yesterday I came across a new ad for McDonalds which I find a little disturbing in its blatant marketing to young children. As you can see in the video below, the “restaurant” is portrayed as a magical, fairytale place with “good food” that is “grown, picked and born of our land”.

Surprised that fast food companies are allowed to target children so specifically like that, I did a little research and it turns out that there are laws preventing them from doing this… but only during children’s programming. This means that a lot of awful ads like this one slip through the net. The articles below explain the situation, while the third link is to the website of a research institute for fast food marketing at Yale University, which has lots of useful info and statistics from the US.

Corporate attitudes to environmental legislation

Really interesting report by the Guardian on a survey they conducted of almost 50 large corporations in the US, asking them about their position on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Clean Power Plan”. The author points out that these are companies who work with environmental NGOs, but when it comes to environmental legislation which might affect their business, are less enthusiastic:

There’s also a link to the companies actual responses to the survey, which is ripe for some kind of discourse analysis…

Perhaps someone could follow the lead of Amernic and Craig in their many excellent papers on “corporate speak” e.g.

US company institutes $70k minimum wage

The CEO and founder of a credit card payments processing company in the US has decided to pay all of his staff at least $70k per annum, after reading that this was the appropriate salary for maximum “emotional well-being”. He’s funding the pay rises largely by reducing his own $1m (WHAT??!!) salary to $70k too. Hard to know whether to feel cheered (paradigm shift?) or cynical (marketing stunt?) about this. Here’s the info so you can make up your own mind:

The Co-op and Fairtrade

The Co-operative Group’s AGM is coming up in May and it looks like some of its members have put forward a motion to strengthen its commitment to Fairtrade. The Group’s official policy is that any product which can be Fairtrade “will be Fairtrade”. However, the Board has basically said that it can’t afford to stick to this. It’s a classic example of why the “business case for sustainability” doesn’t always hold – this is a “win-lose” situation, and sustainability ends up being the loser. The full story is here:

Speaking of Fairtrade,here’s a link to the official Fairtrade website, which has loads of detailed information on how Fairtrade works, what standards are required for the Fairtrade mark, and what Fairtrade products are available:

Big World Small Planet

In a 2009 article in Nature, Rockstrom et al introduced us to what they call “planetary boundaries”, the “safe limits outside of which the Earth system cannot continue to function in a stable, Holocene-like state” (2009:474). There followed an excellent article by Whiteman et al (2013), published in the Journal of Management Studies, which applied the concept to the organisational context (

Now Rockstrom and Klum have published a new book expanding the planetary boundaries thesis, Big World, Small Planet. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it!

In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with this feature in the Guardian, which gives a taste of what the book is all about:

“Community Impact”

Last weekend I took part in a clean up of the riverbank in our local area here in Dublin. Our section of the river runs right past a large Tesco, and the few hundred yards around the supermarket was by far the most littered area. It’s interesting to consider Tesco’s responsibility in this situation. A large fence separates Tesco’s car park (litter free) and the detritus-strewn path along the river. Does this fence represent the boundary of Tesco’s corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Tesco has much to say on corporate responsibility, as this extract from their website on “community impact” suggests:

However, there was no-one from Tesco involved in the river clean up (the group behind it is Dodder Action – So, as an experiment, I’ll be sending an email to Tesco asking about their policy on rubbish along the river. It’ll be interesting to see how far their commitment to “community impact” really goes. To be continued…

Product Placement

Watching Mad Men always makes me slightly uncomfortable, as they’re always talking about tobacco companies or puffing away at a cigarette. It’s hard not to think that somewhere there’s a bunch of tobacco marketing execs rubbing their hands with glee. So does BAT and other tobacco companies sponsor Mad Men? And should tobacco companies be allowed to advertise like this?

Frustratingly, the internet doesn’t offer a straight answer. There’s no confirmation out there on whether BAT does or does not pay for product placement, but some other brands definitely do, as identified in this Fortune article (note: click the next button each time to see the eight companies featured):

And whether or not BAT pays for its exposure on Mad Men, it’s almost certainly benefiting from it:

Finally, some insight into how endemic product placement is in everything we watch:

Organised Hypocrisy and Sustainability Reporting

Great recent paper from Cho et al (2015) which applies the concept of “organised hypocrisy” to an analysis of corporate public utterances during public debate around oil exploration in Alaska in 2004-5. It’s good to see a fresh theoretical approach to sustainability reporting and, as the authors suggest in their conclusion, it could be particularly useful when engaging with practice.

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

In a couple of weeks Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is hosting another event in its “Impact series”. This one, “Building an Inclusive Recovery”, will focus on organisations supporting vulnerable people in Ireland. To register for the the event on the 28th of April, see the link below:

And here’s Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s official website, which offers support for aspiring social entrepreneurs and draws our attention to some interesting organisations:

Sustainable Consumerism – Amy Larkin

Good article by Amy Larkin in the Guardian on sustainable consumerism. The piece gives a big picture overview of some issues in the agriculture and energy industries:

Larkin’s website has links to some of her other well-written articles on sustainability and the economy, and she’s also the author of a recent book, Environmental Debt, which I must get round to reading!