August 17, 2012
CSR: I'll Take a 6-Piece Nugget Combo with a Side of Guilt
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

I've been reading the forum posts with interest and guilt. Having been raised Catholic, guilt is a perpetual state of mind for me, but I'll try to unpack the specific guilt this Chik-Fil-A brouhaha has occasioned.

Unlike Brett or Jeff, our family frequents Chik-Fil-A; indeed, it's probably our fast food establishment of choice, and with kids aged 2 and 5, we choose fast food more often than I'd care to admit (Hi guilt!  It's been too long!) .  I am also pro-same-sex-marriage.  What causes me conflicting emotions isn't just that Dan Cathy has articulated a position at odds with my own principles, but that that articulation has, as Christine aptly described, stems from a source that has positive and negative effects.

Let me explain.  Chik-Fil-A is headquartered in Georgia, and UGa counts many of our alums amongst its executives.  I have had two different Chik-Fil-A lawyers, one a Vice President, serve as guest speakers in my classes.  So I've thought about Chik-Fil-A as an organization perhaps more than the average business law professor.  Before Dan Cathy's remarks, I knew Chik-Fil-A:

  • is closed on Sundays (always good for a reference when teaching Dodge v. Ford)
  • has some type of college scholarship program for its employees
  • Requires franchisees to pay only $5,000 (compared to $45,000 for McDonald's), but also requires them to complete an extensive training program, and to work full-time on the business
  • Hires perennially cheerful employees who deliver customer service of a kind all too rare these days

A lot of these qualities are tied to Chik-Fil-A's identity as a company.  A Christian company.  Some (good customer service) I value more than others (closed on Sundays).  But it has a strong corporate identity tied to Christian values, including preferring Christians as franchisees, as Will Wilkenson points out by way of Ian Reifowitz.  Which is another way of making Christine's point, that WinShape (Dan Cathy's foundation), like many organizations, does things that my private value system considers "good" and "bad."  What's hard for me is that I attribute many of this particular company's virtues and its vice--statements by the CEO with which I disagree--to the same source: its strong identification as a Christian organization.  So to condemn it now feels kind of hypocritical.

Well, at least I don't have to feel guilty about not contributing to the CSR forum anymore. 


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