SU overturns McDonald’s sponsorship ban

Union Council has overturned a previous policy banning McDonald’s from sponsoring any Union activity.

The SU’s previous policy regarding the sponsorship of societies stated that they were not permitted to accept sponsorship from any companies that the Union deemed ‘unethical’. Union Council has the power to update and revise this list. The policy on McDonalds sponsorship came up for review last week and the ban has now been lifted.

The issue is one that has caused a considerable amount of controversy in recent years, as some argue that the Union should not have power over societies’ sponsorship. George Whitworth, the Sports Officer, commented: “I don’t think it is the Union’s place to decide what should and shouldn’t be sponsored. We should let students make up their own minds about what is unethical.”

The main argument surrounding the original banning of sponsorship from McDonalds was concerning the ethics of the company itself. However, there was much disagreement in the last Union Council as to whether the general consensus that McDonald’s as a company was unethical is still applicable today. “McDonald’s is apparently in the top 100 most ethical companies, but in another list is in the top ten most unethical companies … I presume it’s somewhere in between,” said Whitworth.

There are a further five sponsorship bans currently in place over ‘unethical companies’ including Nestle, oil production, arms and tobacco companies. As Union policies have to be renewed every three years, these policies are due to lapse in 2012 and whether they are to be renewed or not will be voted on in Union Council meetings next February. It is questionable as to whether these bans will be renewed following the outcome of last week’s Council meeting, as it could set further reforms of Union policy into motion.

Some students appear disheartened but unsurprised by the decision to overturn the ban. One second-year student who wished to remain anonymous commented: “It seems to have reached the point where the Union appears to care more about money than any pretence of ethical standards.”

However, some students in executive positions in societies, particularly sports clubs, have argued that the sponsorship ban curbs potential income for their societies. The lifting of this ban will mean that these groups can now decide for themselves on whether they should accept sponsorship from McDonald’s.

One third-year councillor said that: “Personally, I’m not in favour of accepting sponsorship from companies like McDonald’s, but I don’t think it’s right for Union Council to decide where societies get their sponsorship.” He added that he would like to see such issues raised in referenda for later this year.

Some councillors have argued that the lifting of such sponsorship bans will decrease the pressure on companies to create ethical standards within their organisations.

Campaigns Forum Coordinator Megan Fortune insisted that sponsorship bans continue to be effective in putting this pressure on companies. “I’m annoyed that the Union can’t see that previous bans on… companies have actively changed [their actions]. The ethical policy of companies, for example Fruit of the Loom have changed their stances which means that they are so much more ethical than they were before.”

Jehanzeb Khan, the Anti-Racism Campaigns Officer, is also in opposition to the overturning of the ban. “The McDonald’s status has improved lately because of such heavy campaigning and boycotts… Removing that pressure and removing that ban will give them more leeway; now they will not be accountable. If we as a group find it unethical, we should oppose it… We are not just students, we are consumers too.”

Others argue that the will of the students should come first. Jordan Bishop, a first-year English Literature student commented: “Providing the companies in question are not seen to be overtly offensive to any group of individuals who may come into contact with the sponsorship, then a liberal policy of free will should be employed.”


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