Ronald McDonald has one purpose in life. He sells McDonald's products to the most vulnerable members of our society - children. (And through them, to their parents.)
McDonald's US Marketing Chief, David Green, revealed the company's unethical attitude when he said that children are "virgin ground as far as marketing is concerned".
The corporation's confidential Operations Manual agrees: "Ronald loves McDonald's and McDonald's food. And so do children, because they love Ronald. Remember, children exert a phenomenal influence when it comes to restaurant selection. This means that you should do everything you can to appeal to children's love for Ronald and McDonald's."
It also reveals that birthday parties are "an important way to generate added sales and profits" , and that offering toys is "one of the best things..to make [children] loyal supporters".
This cynical exploitation of children and their parents is backed up by a global advertising budget of 1.5 billion dollars each year. As their UK Marketing chief, Alistair Fairgrieve, has said: "It is our objective to dominate the communications area...because we are competing for a share of the customer's mind".
The claim that "every McDonald's restaurant is committed to protecting the environment" is a lie. The reality is that every stage in the process of producing and selling the company's products is harmful to the environment.
McDonald's are the world's largest user of beef. Cattle ranching causes damage to forests and soils and a substantial contribution to global warming through methane emissions from the animals. The mass production of food for multinationals leads to widespread use of chemicals on the land, and undermines local, self-sufficient agriculture. The extensive refrigeration of the company's food products - during transportation, in process plants and in McDonald's stores - uses huge amounts of ozone-damaging chemicals (CFCs).
The sheer volume of useless and wasteful packaging means that natural forests are being destroyed or turned into monoculture plantations for paper products. And the manufacture and disposal of the paper and plastic used involves chemicals damaging to the environment. And that doesn't even take into consideration the vast amounts of their packaging which ends up as litter.
A closer look at their 'McRecycle' scheme reveals that this is simply a smokescreen in which they BUY recycled products. A much more environmentally sound idea would be to recycle the mountains of waste packaging PRODUCED by their 19,000 stores every day (or, of course, to stop using disposable packaging altogether).
Despite trumpeting various 'trial recycling schemes' in the UK, New Zealand and Sweden, the company was forced to abandon them after it was found they were actually dumping the material collected by their customers to be recycled.
The kind of food sold at McDonald's stores is exactly that which all health professionals recommend we dramatically cut down on. It is high in fat, sugar and salt and low in fibre, minerals and vitamins. A diet of this type is directly linked to the high prevalence of diseases of affluence - cancer, heart disease, obesity - in modern society.
This is, of course, no secret. As an internal McDonald's memo in 1986 stated: "We can't really address or defend nutrition. We don't sell nutrition and people don't come to McDonald's for nutrition." Indeed, Richard Rampton, their barrister in the Mclibel Trial, stated that McDonald's was not objecting to the description of their products as "junk food" .
Selling unhealthy food is one thing, but advertising it as nutritious is something else entirely. The corporation is still distributing leaflets in the UK claiming that "Everytime you eat at McDonald's you will be eating good, nutritious food" - and this despite having to withdraw, under threat of legal action, a nationwide advertising campaign in the US which portrayed their food as nutritious. (When challenged about this in the McLibel Trial, McDonald's nutritional consultant defined "nutritious" as meaning any food which "contains nutrients" .)
As you can see from their website, another of their favourite themes is that of the so-called balanced diet: "it's the total diet that counts... there are not good or bad foods" .
In other words, they are saying that burgers, fries and milkshakes are fine, providing they are 'balanced' by the consumption of other foods. But what are these 'other foods'? By definition, they must contain the health-enhancing nutrients which burgers, fries and shakes singularly lack - and at the same time DON'T contain the fats and other undesirably components McDonald's products most certainly do contain. In other words, those 'other foods' are GOOD foods.
It is clear that a 'balanced diet' is a misconception. We should be aiming to eat a good diet consisting of good foods.
As the reality of McDonald's business practices and their mass-produced products come under ever greater public scrutiny, the company feel they have to put out more sophisticated and insidious propaganda. They hope to justify their existence, to counter criticism, to ingratiate themselves with local communities and to target sections of the population who they want to buy their products. And what better way to do this than to be seen to be 'helping' the community, doing 'charitable' good works.
McDonald's call it "giving something back to the community" (a clear admission that they are ripping us all off), but it is just another cynical PR excercise to be evaluated at the end of the day by its success in boosting Corporate profits.
David Green, McDonald's US Marketing Chief, admitted in the witness box in the McLibel Trial that community and charitable activity is "a benefit to the company", and "good business", which gained "free publicity". McDonald's target their highly selective sponsorship on key local and national events, activities and organisations. Mr Green also said that "Educational" promotions in schools "generate better feelings" towards McDonald's and lead to more "patronage". They even target hospitals and sick children through 'Ronald McDonald Houses'.
The aim of all this 'charitable' activity is solely to get their name or logo as prominent as possible on programmes, leaflets and lists of credits, and to get regular publicity in local and national media. If their aim was genuinely "Helping Out those in need" , they could do so anonymously.
McDonald's description of their job "Opportunities" is intended to give the impression that the fast food corporation is some kind of benevolent outfit or training institute, rather than an aggressive capitalist organisation employing people to churn out and flog unremarkable and worthless products.
The company deliberately exploits its young workforce. Pay is pathetic, being at or marginally above the minimum wage. The reality of working conditions is not what the company call "Time Management", but forcing employees to work hard, and work continuously, from the minute they clock in until the moment they leave - and only getting the bare minimum breaks (even having to ask permission to go to the toilet or have a drink).
Workers are pressurised to 'hustle' (work at speed) - which has been condemned by the UK Health & Safety Executive as: "putting the service of the customer before the safety of employees" .
What the company call "Team Building" is in fact the way store managers (themselves under intense pressure from headquarters to achieve profits and sales targets) try to convince workers to identify with the company's goals and propaganda. They want workers to forget their about their own needs and basic human rights - for example, they are not even allowed to form Unions. (A former UK Head of Personnel admitted that workers "would not be allowed to carry out any overt Union activity on McDonald's premises" ).
Joel Henderson, a McDonald's worker who attempted to establish a Union in his store in Canada in 1993, testified to the McLibel trial how for a short time things improved - but when the Union was defeated "things returned to the slave-like working conditions that crew must endure every single shift that they work".
All in all, this is what McDonald's mean on their Website by 'a positive, productive work environment'.
We'll leave you at McDonald's 'Earth Effort' top page. As you can see, they have trapped some unfortunate people in one of their restaurants and locked the doors. These people are desperately trying to attract the attention of the family outside who offer their only chance of escape.
As we clearly state in our Beyond McDonald's pages, McDonald's are obviously not the only corporation acting in this way. As the most carefully manicured, defensive and possibly the most arrogant corporation they have been used as a symbol for all corporations maximising their profit at the expense of people, animals and the environment.