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Title: Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility: 2000 words.

This assignment requires you to undertake an analysis of one case study organisation i.e. McDonalds (Fast Food)


In considering the position of McDonald’s on issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility, this discussion argues the following: whilst the corporation conforms to the contemporary public conventions of corporate social responsibility, it still falls short of a truly ethical position. This is not solely because of ethical failings on its own part, but rather the overall patterns of consumption which it encourages. The second question under discussion is that of responsibility towards employees over the issue of long working hours, and freedom of choice. In this respect, it is argued here that employees are owed a debt of care by their employer, as part of the ‘psychological contract’ between them. Ultimately, it is good business, as well as ethical practice, to respect and foster such relationships.


This paper examines the ethical position of the McDonald’s corporation with regard to two areas of its business: human resources management within the issue of long working hours, and environmental sustainability. This problem is discussed here with reference to the relevant ethical framework and theories as set out by Fisher and Lovell in Business Ethics and Values, (2006). A lack of space prohibits a detailed reprise of all of the ethical theories which exist to interpret business behaviour: it may be argued though that those of Teleological ethics, Virtue ethics and Utilitarian ethics are of particular relevance in this context. The idea that ethical systems are either consequentialist or non-consequentialist, that they exist to assess whether or not they bring a desired state closer to proximity, is also considered important here. (Fisher and Lovell 2006: p.100)

1. Identify and evaluate your chosen organisation’s approach to environmental sustainability. You should show awareness of different ethical perspectives on these initiatives and the conflicting pressures the organisation faces.

According to its own environmental responsibility report, McDonald’s focuses its efforts on three areas of concern: energy efficiency, sustainable packaging and waste management, and green restaurant design. (McDonalds 2008). It has also initiated a Social Accountability programme and Environmental “scorecard” for its supply chain, with the intention of improving ethical standards amongst its direct and indirect suppliers.

Whilst this all appears highly laudable, it must be realised that Corporate Social Responsibility and/or Sustainability Reports are essentially a forum where aspirations and commitments – as well as actual achievements – may be circulated. As a vehicle, they are becoming de rigueur for corporations with global reach, and especially for those with scale in consumer facing businesses. As Brewster reports, by 2007, 69 of the top one hundred UK FTSE companies were publishing their own CSR reports; they have in essence become a genre in themselves. (Brewster 2007). The real environmental achievements they convey in general, or about McDonalds specifically, is far more problematical to adduce.