- McDonald's will conduct a civil rights assessment of its company through a third-party firm, the company said in an email Friday. The company did not disclose if an "assessment" differs from the civil rights audit that McDonald's shareholders voted for at the company's annual meeting last week.
- A majority of shareholder votes cast were in favor of an audit, according to an SEC document filed on Thursday. The audit would evaluate the effectiveness of McDonald's "policies and practices to address possible adverse impact on its stakeholders — specifically its franchisees, workers at corporate and franchise stores, and consumers," SOC Investment Group wrote in an email.
- SOC Investment Group, which proposed the audit, has recently helped push other major companies to begin civil rights audits, including Uber, JP Morgan Chase and Apple.
SOC Investment Group appears unconcerned with McDonald's "assessment" terminology, even though shareholders demanded an "audit."
"McDonald's can call it what they want, but it's substance we're after," SOC Investment Group Executive Director Dieter Waizenegger said in an emailed statement. "Shareholders have spoken and the company has an obligation to fulfill our call for a third party, independent audit of its practices and policies."
This independent civil rights assessment could help ease concerns over McDonald's response to several anti-discrimination and anti-harassment lawsuits the chain has attracted over the years.
It also marks the first social shareholder proposal to pass at the chain since at least 2009, SOC Investment Group said, and was the only proposal to gain shareholder approval at last week's meeting. Proposals to report on plastic reduction; antibiotics and public health costs; gestation stall use; lobbying activities and expenditures; and global public policy and political expenditures were either voted down or withdrawn, according to the SEC filing.
"We are committed to providing equitable opportunities for our employees, franchisees, and suppliers," McDonald's said in an emailed statement. "While we are proud of our progress, our efforts are ongoing, and we will continue to focus on actions that have meaningful impact."
McDonald's has recently taken internal steps to improve diversity within its system, including linking executive incentive bonuses to hiring benchmarks for women and diverse employees and committing to put a quarter of its supply chain spend toward diverse businesses within the next three years.
Waizenegger said McDonald's must "reconcile its stated commitment to 'fair treatment in access, opportunity and advancement for all'" with accusations that it has failed to prevent harmful practices within its network. He also hopes McDonald's will engage shareholder feedback throughout the assessment, and stressed that the company must choose an organization with a robust civil rights background to spearhead the review.
"McDonald's must commit to implementing the recommended changes that come out of it, and operate with the knowledge that a third-party audit is only one of many actions that will be necessary," Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, an online racial justice organization, said in an emailed statement.