McDonald’s says it will conduct a civil rights ‘assessment’

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Photo courtesy of McDonald’s

McDonald’s said on Thursday it had hired a third-party company to conduct a civil rights assessment, though it appears to be stopping short of carrying out the audit that shareholders approved at the company’s annual meeting on Thursday. last month.

Shareholders narrowly approved a proposed civil rights audit. According to a federal securities filing Thursday, the proposal received 273.8 million votes in favor, to 217.2 million votes against.

Yet more than 70 million shares did not vote or abstained. Overall, the proposal was approved by 55% of the votes cast by shareholders, but 48% of all shares.

McDonald’s said it had already started taking steps to comply with the request. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the heart of McDonald’s core values,” the company said in an email. “We are committed to providing fair opportunities to our employees, franchisees and suppliers. While we are proud of our progress, our efforts continue and we will continue to focus on actions that have a meaningful impact.

“Consistent with these efforts, we have engaged a third party to conduct an assessment.”

McDonald’s did not provide any details on the difference between the assessment the company plans to conduct and the shareholder-approved audit. But by definition, an “audit” is an official inspection while an “audit” is an assessment.

The proposal was the only one of several to receive an OK shareholder at the company’s annual meeting. Shareholders have turned down proposals that would call for a report on reducing plastics and another on antibiotics. They also voted against reports on lobbying activities and one on global public policy. Shareholders also voted against a proposal changing the threshold for calling a special meeting.

But the vote on the civil rights audit received the most attention ahead of the meeting. The social investment firm, SOC Investment Group, offered the audit.

McDonald’s initially requested that the proposal not be included in the proxy vote, citing several discrimination lawsuits filed against the company by current and former franchisees, employees and some suppliers. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission denied the request.

“SOC Investment Group would be delighted to work with McDonald’s to flesh out the civil rights audit,” Dieter Waizenegger, SOC’s chief executive, said in a statement. He noted that McDonald’s “must commit to selecting an independent and credible organization with a strong civil rights track record. We also hope that the company will consider feedback from shareholders and other stakeholders throughout the process. »

McDonald’s is not the first company to be asked by shareholders to conduct civil rights audits. They have become increasingly common in corporate America amid growing activism from social investment groups and others pushing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues further.

It’s not even the first restaurant to do one. Starbucks has conducted these assessments in each of the past three years of former US Attorney General Eric Holder. The reports came after a Starbucks official called police in 2018 after two black men waiting for a business meeting refused to leave the store, leading to their arrest.

That report recommended more training to prevent bias and harassment, strengthen language about discrimination, and take more steps to work on community engagement efforts, among other things.

McDonald’s shareholders voted in favor of the civil rights audit at the same meeting as the company’s board was easily re-elected for all 12 seats despite a push from activist investor Carl Icahn, who wanted two board seats on the company’s use of pork from suppliers using gestation crates.

None of Icahn’s candidates, Maisie Lucia Ganzler and Leslie Samuelrich, received more than 2% of the vote.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct that McDonald’s is planning a civil rights assessment rather than an audit.

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