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Kellogg's One of the World's Most Ethical Companies

Posted Sep 12 2008 12:11pm

I got the heads-up on this from Dr. Mike Eades' blog. From the original article on Backchannel Media:

Kellogg Company was named one of the World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Magazine, a national publication dedicated to illuminating the important correlation between ethics and profit. The elite list of companies were recognized for their strong leadership in ethics and compliance, advancement of industry discourse on social and ethical issues, and positive engagement in the communities in which they operate.

"Kellogg Company has a rich history of corporate social responsibility -- a history that has grown and evolved to meet the complexities of today's business world and the challenges of a global society," said Neil Nyberg, Vice President of Ethics & Compliance, Kellogg Company. "Our founder, W.K. Kellogg, built the company on a foundation of integrity. That legacy continues to guide our company and our people."

Ummkay. One can't deny that Kellogg's does good works - check out their Foundation. But doesn't corporate social responsibility include manufacturing products that enhance the lives of consumers rather than pose health risks?

What does Kellogg's manufacture? "Corn Flakes!" everyone yells. Yes, Corn Flakes. And:

With 2006 sales of almost $11 billion, Kellogg Company (NYSE: K) is the world's leading producer of cereal and a leading producer of convenience foods, including cookies, crackers, toaster pastries, cereal bars, fruit snacks, frozen waffles, and veggie foods. The company's brands include Kellogg's, Keebler, Pop-Tarts, Eggo, Cheez-It, Nutri-Grain, Special K, Rice Krispies, Murray, Austin, Morningstar Farms, Famous Amos, Carr's, Plantation, Ready Crust and Kashi. Kellogg products are manufactured in 17 countries and marketed in more than 180 countries around the world.

Convenience foods. The world's leading producer of Pop-Tarts and other assorted nutritionally-devoid junk, most of which is marketed directly to children, is one of the world's most ethical companies? Like, seriously?

Dr Mike says:

What does make a company ethical? Is it how it treats its employees? Is it how it treats its customers? Is it how it treats the environment? (You can read Ethisphere Magazine’s selection processhereunder ‘Methodology.’)

If a company treats its employees wonderfully, is terrific to its customers, and is environmentally friendly, yet sells a toxic product that kills, is it still an ethical company? How about the tobacco companies? Are they ethical if they treat employees, customers, and the environment well?

Ethisphere also named PepsiCo (more on them in another post) and McDonald's as top ethical companies. I guess it doesn't matter how unhealthy a company's products are, as long as they do some charity work to make up for it.

One could easily argue that no-one is forced to use any of these companies products. It's a free market, and we as consumers have free choice. I agree. Except that each of them market DIRECTLY to children. Blatantly so. And they have a whole arsenal of tools at their disposal to do so. From the Media Awareness Network:

" Pester power" refers to children's ability to nag their parents into purchasing items they may not otherwise buy. Marketing to children is all about creating pester power, because advertisers know what a powerful force it can be.

According to the 2001 marketing industry book Kidfluence, pestering or nagging can be divided into two categories—"persistence" and "importance." Persistence nagging (a plea, that is repeated over and over again) is not as effective as the more sophisticated "importance nagging." This latter method appeals to parents' desire to provide the best for their children, and plays on any guilt they may have about not having enough time for their kids.

I don't give a rat's ass how many foundations you have or charities you support. Crap like this isn't ethical. Ever.

As a side note, the Kelloggs have an interesting backstory. John Harvey Kellogg was a staunch Seventh Day Adventist and vegetarian who ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The San, as it was known, advocated a low-fat, high-fibre diet and believed in frequent water and yogurt enemas. He also believed that protein digestion gave off toxins in the body, and that intestines should be kept "clean". These beliefs are still alive and well today, of course. Luckily, his other ones - all sex leads to disease; boys should be circumsized without anaesthesia and girls should have carbolic acid applied to their clitorises to avoid masturbation; that masturbation caused heart disease; and eugenics and racial segregation - have fallen out of fashion. Makes you wonder, though, just what those 15-gallon enemas REALLY did for him.

He and his brother, Will Keith, started a cereal company but eventually split because Will wanted to add sugar to the recipe. John went on to focus on soy products, and Will started what became Kellogg's. And as we all know, Kellogg's products make many of us need one of these:



Yup, good times. LOVE her stockings.

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