Tuesday, January 26, 2010

McDonald's Says "Sorry"

American fast food chain McDonald's has said sorry to Singapore for excluding the pig toy from its collection of 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac. The company apologised in an advertisement published in a prominent local newspaper and said the pig toy will be available soon for buying.

McDonald's had replaced the pig- one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac- ostensibly out of respect to Muslims. Its outlets in Singapore are Halal Certified, meaning the food served is in compliance with the Islamic code. The company presumed -without consulting key stakeholders -that offering a pig toy will annoy its Muslim customers. But the gesture offended some Chinese customers who thought the pig was an integral part of their zodiac and should not be removed. Worse, McDonald's replaced the pig toy with a Cupid thinking that offering Cupid will make a great marketing move as the Valentine Day coincides with the Chinese New Year. Chinese customers were not pleased. They started writing letters to local newspapers and soon various social media forums were buzzing with criticism of the company. Finally, McDonald's realised it had bungled. And ended the controversy with a public apology. The right thing to do.

Companies can avoid making this kind of costly mistake by injecting corporate responsibility into the DNA of the organisation. Embedding corporate responsibility throughout the organisation can equip functional managers to think holistically when making choices or decisions. Corporate responsibility should not be run like a show by the PR guys who have no idea what corporate responsibility is. Going beyond writing cheques to charities or PR generating sponsorships takes more than spin skills. Hiring a competent CR professional may be the first important step companies serious about responsible business should consider. Commitment and support from the top executive and the board are of course pre-requisits.

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