Large corporations socially responsible but may need pressure

Published on: Jul 9, 2013

The three factors that make big food corporations socially responsible are the top leader’s ethical principles, a health emergency and activists that expose serious problems, according to Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University who spoke at JAM 2013. 

Grandin explained that during the past 40 years, animal welfare has switched from an abstract nuisance that is delegated to the legal or public relations department to a real issue. This occurred, she said, when top executives “went on tours of farms and slaughter plants and saw reality; many things were acceptable but there were bad practices that needed changing.”

Grandin noted that since 1999 there have been huge improvements in animal handling in large slaughter plants. She said the improvement started when big restaurant chains started auditing animal welfare. 

The initial stimulus, according to Grandin, was activist pressure but the long-term motivator was top executives getting their “eyes opened.”

Large corporations can be socially responsible but many of them will need some outside pressure to prevent the worst abuses. On the other hand, big corporations are not the evil empire depicted by activists. Reality is always somewhere in the middle, said Grandin.