Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To Fast Food or Not To Fast Food

I don't feel comfortable writing fast food as part of professional background in my resume especially on top of it. Early on I know that fast food in general is not environmentally sustainable given its core operational nature and by now I realize my contribution is just going to be another futile expedition given the time I spent with the industry. I guess back then when I accepted this challenge, I thought I had this idealist sense that I can make some change, even a very little one and anyway they pay well at the corporate level.

The operation in the lower reaches of the hierarchy is too cost effective and unbearably hard (even demeaning) for someone like me, but it is this frugal efficiency that has raked so much profit for the fast food giants that is enjoyed in the corporate level.

In Donella Meadow's Thinking in Systems, it was emphasized that hierarchies are formed to serve the betterment of those at the bottom. This realization stretches your mind to think that the environmental problems or non-compliance of fast foods to regulations can also be attributed to the indifference of corporate policy makers to the situation of the people who does the dirty work. It is common sense to note that the dirt is caused by the dirty work and someone has got to do the dirty work somehow.

In my experience with the QSR, the environmental improvement suggestions by those well embedded in the corporate level are often out of touch with the actual people who are directly involved in the maintenance of the end-pipe operations since they are already comfortable in their positions at the top of the hierarchy and it is a lot easier to blame the "hit-man" at the end of the pipe. Oftentimes, these corporate suggestions does not even make sense, they try to integrate it with a promotional scheme rather than the betterment of those in the bottom.

When you assassinate someone with a hit man of course it is difficult to determine who is the mastermind unless you take the time to find out the motive. It might be a brutal metaphor about how industries pollute the environment, often out of site is out of mind and like any dictator who brutally orders the kill, they still proclaim their virtues (

In my interviews with lowly service crews, it is easy to see that they are open canvases and they just need to be aware to connect that what they are doing is causing all the pollution. It is this job-specific awareness that will teach these kids to gain integrity. However, marketing products, fun runs or other PR stuff are not interpreted by the lowly service crew as aid to helping the environment and conserve its natural resources but additional work and high volume stress.

The best gauge so far to know whether a fast food is really doing its part toward sustainable development is not to look at its promotional campaigns and sponsorship in environmental conservation efforts but to ask their lowly service crew about what their company has taught them on how to protect the environment. If they tell you that flippin' burgers can make you successful...that fast food has a long way to go regardless of what it has marketed itself in terms of their environmental stewardship efforts.