McDonalds Targeted by Stonyfield Farm Front Group

Printer-friendlyPrinter-friendlyEmail to friendEmail to friend

Golden Arches signMcDonald's Corporation is no stranger to threats from the Left, especially environmental activist groups. The nanny-state obesity fighters' attacks (think Super Size Me) are well-documented, and Green groups like Rainforest Alliance, Greenpeace and Environmental Defense have extracted their pound of flesh over things like coffee bean suppliers, Amazon rainforests, and styrofoam packaging.

Now comes the latest pressure tactic aimed at the Golden Arches by a group called Climate Counts, which has initiated a "Green Watching" campaign against the fast food giant. Last week Climate Counts conducted a "dialogue" with McDonald's vice president for sustainability, Bob Langert, while supporters were "sending e-mails and tweets to McDonald's encouraging them to take more climate action and to be more actively engaged with fast-food consumers on corporate climate responsibility."

McDonald's isn't the only company to come under scrutiny; it's just the most recent. Climate Counts has evaluated several companies and assigns them scores on a 0-to-100 scale based upon 22 criteria, which fall under one of four categories:

  • Their climate "footprint"
  • Reduction of their impact on global warming (yes, Climate Counts still uses that term)
  • Support or opposition toward progressive climate legislation
  • Public disclosure of their climate actions "clearly and comprehensively"

But beyond the scorecard, followers of Climate Counts are encouraged to put pressure via their spending habits, influence with friends, and direct contact to get corporations to follow the climate alarmists' agenda. Companies with low scores are to be avoided by the "climate-conscious consumer," because they are "not yet taking meaningful action on climate change." McDonald's just barely rose above that level with a score of 36. I guess at least having a vice president for sustainability counts for something. In contrast Burger King and Wendy's Arby's Group received dud scores of 11 and 7, respectively.

Climate Counts also facilitates the ability for its co-believers to contact companies via its Web site. Visitors can click on a corporation's name, and then are provided a pre-filled email message that says the following:

I saw your company's score today at Climate Counts (www.climatecounts.org). Global climate change is one of the most important issues we currently face, and I believe the world's companies have a responsibility to take a real leadership role in fighting it. The Climate Counts Company Scorecard ranks the climate actions of your company and others in your sector. I consider myself one of the many climate-conscious consumers who will continue to pay attention to Climate Counts' regular reviews of your company's climate performance. I will also be sharing this information with my friends and colleagues.

Climate Counts then delivers the message to the company on behalf of the "writer."

Climate Counts was established by organic dairy company Stonyfield Farms, and two company officers -- including president Gary Hirshberg -- serve on the nonprofit's board. Hirshberg, author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, has supported liberal causes and was considered a potential Democratic opponent in 2008 to Sen. John Sununu in New Hampshire. The company was founded in Wilton, NH, as an organic farming school. Over the last decade the majority of the company was purchased by French food product company Groupe Danone, maker of Dannon yogurt.

In October 2006 Business Week reported on the global growth of organic products, with a focus on Stonyfield:

...It may come as a surprise that Stonyfield's organic farm is long gone. Its main facility is a state-of-the-art industrial plant just off the airport strip in Londonderry, N.H., where it handles milk from other farms. And consider this: Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stonyfield still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirshberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. "It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house," he says. "But once you're in organic, you have to source globally."

One of the mottos of the global warming crowd is to "buy local," a principle Hirshberg has abandoned apparently in favor of corporate profits. Oh, and Climate Counts' score for Stonyfield Farms is a stellar 83, and it's 73 for Group Danone.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and is executive director for American Tradition Institute.