Corporate Social Responsibility

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1.0Executive Summary

While there is no universally accepted definition of Corporate Social Responsibility, it is usually described in terms of a company considering, managing and balancing the economic, social and environmental impacts of its activities. The notion of corporate social responsibility should be a part of the core business operations of a company, rather than a separate ‘add on’.[2]

Given that socially responsible organizations should seek ‘minimize their negative impacts and maximize their positive impacts’, the fast food industry provides an important context in which to debate the issue of corporate social responsibility. While the influence of myriad factors, including increasing sedentary lifestyles, on obesity is acknowledged by some researchers some argue that rising obesity can also be linked to the fast food industry.[1]

Generally speaking, obesity is an increasingly major health problem, both in terms of patient numbers and severity. Since most of the people perceive the consumption of certain food and beverage products leads to obesity, there are potential risks identified relate to changes in the regulatory environment, litigation and consumer resistance, which have turned the issue into a serious business concern.

Food and beverage producers, who view that their marketing activities can only influence decisions and that it is the customer who makes the decision to drive to a fast food restaurant, to purchase, and consume a fast food meal, are failing to respond to the obesity issue, risking a negative impact on sales.

Due to the advantageous position that fast food restaurants gained from contemporary lifestyle factors, such as increasing usage of technology, and workforce changes resulting in a consumer focus on time saving in a time constrained world; fast food marketers have successfully normalized unhealthy foods (low in nutritional value and high in fat, sugar, salt) into everyday lives', by offering these products for sale at every convenient locations, and encouraging people to buy these foods.

Although fast foods get blamed for causing obesity, the fact is that it is not a "cause" of obesity. While regularly eating fast food may increase the risk of obesity, they are not a cause of obesity. In other words, they are risk factors. Therefore, responsibility for rising levels of obesity in society should be shared with individuals, parents (in the case of children), food and beverage producers (implement CSR initiatives), governments, and society as a whole. 1.1 Background: Into the issues to be resolved

1.1.1Scale of the problem
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Globally, more than one billion adults are overweight, of whom at least 300 million are obese. A person is generally considered obese if he or she is overweight by 20-30% of their ideal body weight or has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above.[3]

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of serious illnesses, including heart disease, type two diabetes, hypertension, stroke and certain forms of cancer. Also, the risks of developing obesity-related diseases as an adult are increased considerably by being obese as a child. In the US, nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and nearly one third are obese.

Childhood obesity is a particular source of concern. Around 30% of US children and teenagers are believed to be overweight, a figure that has more than doubled in the past 40 years. The situation is almost as critical in Europe. EU figures estimate that around 14 million EU children are currently overweight, of which more than three million are obese.[3]

In Britain the incidence of obesity has almost trebled in the last 20 years, with over half of women and over two-thirds of men either overweight or obese. Nearly one in six British children is overweight, six percent are obese. Although the US, Australia and Europe are still...
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