McDonald’s: Case A • 1
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Case A: McDonald’s
Susan Svoboda, manager of the University of Michigan Corporate Environmen-
tal Management Program (CEMP), prepared this case under the guidance of
Stuart Hart, director of CEMP and assistant professor of Corporate Strategy
and Organizational Behavior at the U-M School of Business Administration, as
the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffec-
tive handling of an adminstrative situation.
This document may be used by
either students or faculty for background information.
Rooted in Ray Kroc’s founding principles of Quality,
management has always believed in being a leader in
issues that affect their customers.
This philosophy is
evident in McDonald’s involvement in various community
projects regarding education, health care, medical research,
and rehabilitation facilities.
These activities help the
corporation to extend their image beyond fun and
entertainment into social responsibility.
However, in the late 1980s, McDonald’s began to face
criticism for its environmental policies, especially those
surrounding polystyrene clamshell containers.
McDonald’s replaced CFCs, the blowing agent used in
clamshell production, with weaker HCFC-22’s after
facing public criticism that CFC usage was contributing
to ozone depletion.
But this change was not enough for
many grass-roots environmental groups that, led by the
Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste (CCHW),
united in establishing a “Ronald McToxic Campaign”
consisting of restaurant picketers and an organized
effort to mail clamshells back to Oak Brook headquarters.
When McDonald’s later tested trash-to-energy on-site
incinerators, CCHW quickly named the project “McPuff.”
By 1989, school children, the backbone of McDonald’s
customer base, founded a group called “Kids Against
Although they were not the only fast-food
restaurant facing criticism for disposable packaging,
McDonald’s could not afford to let this situation esca-
late. One of their primary competitors, Burger King,
was winning praise for its paperboard containers,
which were claimed by some to be biodegradable.
McDonald’s Corporation grew from a single drive-in
restaurant in San Bernardino, California, in 1948, to the
largest food-service organization in the world.
McDonald’s owned $13 billion of the $93 billion fast-food
industry, operating 12,400 restaurants in 59 countries
including company-owned restaurants, franchisees, and