Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


A few hours in Naples (Mar07)

Should I even admit to flying to Naples for a stint of no more than 3 hours? Perhaps even more heretical was that I went to make a presentation to the European Management team at McDonalds.

This is a company I haven’t been very fond of in the past – they tried to get the original Green Consumer Guide taken off the shelves.We had said that McDonalds was ‘implicated in tropical rainforest destruction’ by using beef from cows reared on Amazon rainforest land.But when Greenpeace made similar allegations in 2006, this time relating to soya used in chicken feed, McDonalds responded very differently.I talked to Greenpeace to get their views – they said “What struck us was that they didn’t just get their own house in order, they tried to get others on board too”.Greenpeace are now targeting Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken who have, to date maintained a stony silence on the issue.

I was picked up in Naples by a driver who was fulfilled my stereotype of a Southern Italian man – he even kept his sunglasses on in the tunnels! It was a short visit but a momentous one. I haven’t been to a McDonalds restaurant for at least 20 years and hadn’t envisaged putting them on my client list – even though I do work with a number of other multi-national companies. Perhaps this is truly an indication that the world in 2007 has really changed – for the better.

On my return to the UK I found messages about an article being written in the Financial Times about my ‘date with McDonalds’.They’d heard about it from an answer I gave at the National Trust Question Time event the previous day.I was amazed.Tongue in cheek they likened my rapprochement with McDonalds to that of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams!

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