Did KFC Push to Exclude Environmental Campaigners from Key Sustainability Summit?

© Kentucky Fried Forests

Update: Michael Owens of the Sustainable Operations Summit contacted TreeHugger to dispute some of the claims made in this post. He told us "Your story is accurate in that I refused them entry to attend, but it is not accurate that I did this at the request of YUM Brands." He was, he says, informed by KFC that Dogwood were blogging about the summit and were planning a call in protest - but was never asked to refuse them entry. That decision, he says, was his own.

Having praised McDonald's and Starbucks as green leaders in fast food packaging, the Dogwood Alliance might have hoped they'd be making some headway in their campaign to persuade KFC to stop destroying Southern forests. (See disclosure below for my connections with this campaign.)

But so far KFC, and their parent company YUM! Brands, has refused to talk to the activist group. So campaigners were excited to receive an invite to the invite-only Sustainable Operations Summit where YUM!'s chief sustainability officer McClendon is speaking today. The plan, insists Dogwood's Scot Quaranda, was simply to attend the panel session and to try and get some actual face time with McClendon, with whom the group have tried to meet for over two years.

But then they received an email from summit organizers:

Michael Owens, VP at CraigMichaels, Inc. and conference organizer, stated in an email to the group, “It has been brought to my attention that you are planning on protesting YUM Brands and Roger McClendon at the Sustainable Operations Summit. While I am all for free speech and I truly respect what you guys do, I cannot allow you attend the summit.” When pressed in a subsequent phone conversation he revealed that he was informed of planned protest by Yum! Brands/KFC. The great irony is that the organization had no plans to protest KFC at the event.

So just as Chipotle's appearance at a sustainable food summit led to questions over their labor rights policies, now KFC's appearance at a sustainable business summit—and their efforts to exclude others from that summit—may just draw more attention than if they had left the matter alone.

Disclosure: In my day job at The Change Creation, I worked with the Dogwood Alliance on the Kentucky Fried Forests campaign.

Tags: Activism | Corporate Responsibility | Forestry | United States

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