KFC Corporation, also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken is a fast food chain based in Louisville, a subsidiary brand of its parents’ company Yum! Brands. Kentucky Fried Chicken was founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1952, while the idea of KFC’s fried chicken actually goes back to 1930. The company adopted the condensed form of its name in 1991. KFC has doing some ethical social responsibilities for years; like the KFC Colonel’s Scholars Program is about to give scholarship up to $20,000 offered to high school seniors planning to attend a public in-state college or university. Also in Social Diversity, their global culture is developing a workforce that is diverse in different segment actively, where everyone can make a difference.
In this report will be discussing about business ethics of KFC, their main ethical dilemmas together with theories and relative importance and, the good practice and values behind that together with some recommendations and strategies. This Ethical Audit Report of KFC was divided into four main structures to cover all elements, first is main ethical dilemmas of KFC, continue with part two which is relative importance and ethical theory to the dilemmas of KFC. Follows with part three, good practices and values of KFC and the last part is recommendations and strategic options to KFC.
1. Main Ethical Dilemmas of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
The main KFC’s ethical dilemmas which they are currently facing with, and how they affect various stakeholders. Business simply means a structure of an applied system that practice ethical principles and moral problems that occur in a business environment. Where as dilemmas can be defined as ‘A situation that requires one to choose between two equally balanced and often equally unpleasant alternatively or, a predicament that seemingly defies a satisfactory solution’ (David Murray 1997: pg. 112)
In doing a business, especially international or in a global company, a person must be able to compromise all different cultural in different countries, it is not easy to make a business to success. From the aspects of ethics, cultural relativism is so much related into it. The ethic of cultural relativists views other cultures, not as wrong, but as different. This means that they define “good or right” as “communally approved” by the majority in a given culture in a country or a particular land, this may because everyone in a particular land does it, peoples beliefs and practices is already shaped by the environment.
1.1 Chicken Abuse, and the PETA
Every year, KFC needs 700 million supplies of chickens for the entire worldwide restaurants. While KFC’s claim that they “only deal with suppliers who promise to maintain our high standards and commitment to animal welfare”. But about the treatment of the chickens it buys, a proof of graphic evidence, a video was taken by an investigator of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had showing that the chickens was purposely abused by the workers. The video was taking in a slaughterhouse, at a Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Moorefield West Virginia, where the workers kicking live chickens like playing footballs, thumping them into walls, apparently those workers do it just for fun. This does not happens once, the investigation of PETA on KFC shows that there are so many suppliers of KFC had committed into this behaviour. Only in United States many suppliers have involved in, one of them is Tyson slaughterhouse. In the slaughterhouse showed that birds purposely were burnt to death, were blown apart by makeshift firecrackers, and broke their legs by the workers so that it can be fit into slaughter-line shackles. Tyson is KFC’s number one supplier. (All related pictures please refer to Appendix 1)
Other country, the most popular issue on the abuse by the supplier of KFC is happens on India. Chickens was found overstuffed into awfully crowded warehouse plagued with chicken carcasses, cruel breeding practices, sick and injured chickens but never received any medical attention, and they suffering at the hands of cruel workers who neglected to examine even minimal ethics of animal welfare. (For details in this issue please refers to Appendix 2) Animal abusing can be defined as the most serious Ethical Dilemmas on KFC.
1.2 Health Problems, ‘Fried’ fast food
‘Fried’ is like almost everything in KFC, the main course from the menu in KFC is actually fried chickens. Unlike any other fast food brand, common one-McDonalds’, which in their menu french fries is just a side dish. In the past few years, KFC has been sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI), charged with the food contains “staggering sum” of trans fat. In one three-piece chicken combo meal contains 15 grams of trans fat, which is over the limit that a person should have in one week. CPSI (2006) through press release said that “The class-action suit… asks that the court prohibit KFC from using partially hydrogenated oil, or that at the very least, signs be posted in KFC outlets notifying customers that many KFC foods are high in trans fat.” The suit was filed in Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
These trans fat is actually harming consumer’s health, KFC as the world’s most popular chicken fast food chain, over 14,000 outlets around the world, with more than 12 million customer eating their “fried” chickens every day. Just imaging, their unethical behavior has influenced widely against their customers. It is a serious ethical dilemmas which can be found in KFC.
2. Relative Importance and Ethical Theory to the Dilemmas of KFC
2.1 Relative Importance and Ethical Theory to the dilemmas on Chicken Abuse, and the PETA
KFC and its parent, Yum Brands, states at their website on Animal Treatment that: “Yum! Brands and KFC believe treating animals humanely and with care is a key part of our quality assurance efforts. This means animals should be free from mistreatment at all possible times from how they are raised and cared for to how they are transported and processed. Our goal is to only deal with suppliers who provide an environment that is free from cruelty, abuse and neglect.”
Yet, all the abuse behaviours still occurs in almost all KFC suppliers’ slaughterhouse. A spokeswoman for KFC responded for the video said: “the company wouldn’t tolerate the type of behaviours in the video. KFC will require that the employee or employees responsible be terminated, and further violations will “result in termination of our relationship.” (Bonnie Warschauer 2004)
KFC has formed the KFC Animal Welfare Advisory Council, which consists of greatly regarded experts in the field. The Council provides KFC with information and suggestion based on relevant data and scientific research. KFC has done something for the issue, but it seems like not really effective on defeating to the problems. But in fact, one of the advisors in the council had come out to say that “KFC never had any meetings. They never asked any advice, and then they touted to the press that they had this animal-welfare advisory committee. I felt like I was being used.” (Dr. Adele Douglass, former animal welfare advisor to KFC, Chicago Tribune 2006)
On the year 2003, as the works done by KFC does not improving the situation, PETA sued Kentucky Fried Chicken and called for a boycott to KFC’s food, demanding that it require its suppliers to give chickens more room in factory barns, stop forcing growth so rapid that it cripples birds, and to gas birds before hanging them so they feel no pain.
The ethical theory Theological or Consequentiality state that to judge whether an action is right or wrong is by looking at the consequences justify the means. It is corporate Social Responsibility to see that all rules and Code of Conduct is adhered to by KFC.
2.2 Relative Importance and Ethical Theory to the dilemmas on Health Problem, ‘Fried’ Fast Food
According to this trans fat issue, a spokesperson from KFC Laurie Schalow (2007) issued a statement saying that: “We take health and safety issues very seriously. We provide a variety of menu choices and provide nutrition information, including trans fat values, on our website and in our restaurants so consumers can make informed choices before they purchase our products. Our company is reviewing alternative oil options, but there are a number of factors to consider including maintaining KFC’s unique taste and flavour of Colonel Sanders’ Original Recipe, supply availability and transportation, among others.” This has prove that KFC has initiative to take action on the issue, but yet, still have other ‘profits relates’ concerns, such as in the statement stated, they afraid they might lost the unique taste thus losing customers at the same time, and it sure will decrease the annual profits.
KFC has taken a big step in their chain’s history by launching the Kentucky Grilled Chicken. In this combo meal, contains only 395 calories, even lower than a subway Italian B.M.T sandwich which contains 450 calories. And the main point is, guarantee no trans fat. KFC promote their new Grilled Chicken on the famous show Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show, by offering free meal using print out coupon on the related site. (For the coupon picture and details please refer to Appendix 3) The action taken was proved that KFC has strong initiative to promote both Fried and Grilled Chicken in their chains, as people now is really concern and sensitive on what they are eating especially on fast food meals.
This big move has pop up more questions; based on the history of KFC, the main focus of the meal is Fried Chicken, when the focus added with Grilled Chicken meal, should they also change their name into Kentucky Grilled Chicken? The problem that the company facing is, how to promote their new meal and also keeping their regular customer who used to Fried Chicken while doing so. The greed to keep old customers that are loyal to only fried chicken especially the name, are immoral. The last but not least, why would this healthy Grilled Chicken meal only available in US but not worldwide while KFC is an international fast food chain?
‘Respect for persons’- Kant’s ethics and duty explain that it is the age of enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on human reason. According to Kant’s first formulation and the ‘Categorical imperative’ was- “I ought never to accept in such a way that I can also will that my Maxim should become universal law”. KFC should act in such a way in accordance to Kantian view- “that act always to treat humanity- never always as a means but always at the same time as an end.” I always believe that humans are rational animals because of their power and reason. (Essentials of Business Ethics, George Chryssides and John Kaler, pg 31-34)
The ethic of Natural Law explains the fundamental moral rights that every company should have towards their customers and those associated the organization for instance stakeholders.
3. Ethical Good Practices and Values of KFC
KFC as a world’s most famous chicken fast food chain has uncountable employees working for them. Basically, the employees are representative of KFC as they work immediately to the customers. Thus, as their employees produce goods (prepare foods), provide services (serve walk-in customer in KFC restaurant) to the customers everyday, a good practices of to train a professional staff, and how they treating their employees is a must to KFC in order to constitute the essential outputs of the company.
3.1 Protect Employee’s Health and Safety, as Working Condition
Every year, there are more than 5000 workers are killed and over 3,000,000 are seriously injured as a results of work accident in the world. Workplace hazard always the main causes workers get hurts, include not only obvious categories like mechanical injury or burns but also extremely heat and cold, skin irritants or noisy machinery. In KFC’s restaurant’s kitchen, their workers facing with deep fried machine, hot oven, cutting machine and bad air condition everyday. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (1994), is the most recent legislation in Malaysia, to safe guard safety and health of works. KFC should abide by the rules and this act, is ethical. When their employees feel save in their work place, firm will have good reputation though.
3.2 Provides Job Satisfaction, as Working Condition
The work of Manuel G. Velasques (1996) emphasis that the rational parts of the organization put a high value on efficiency: All jobs and tasks are to be designed so as to achieve the organization’s goals as efficiently as possible. When efficiency is achieved through specialization, the rational aspects of organizations tend to incorporate highly specialized jobs. As we known, working in a fast food restaurant is definitely bore with keep on repeating the same jobs everyday with no exception. This leads to job dissatisfaction to the workers, it will change their attitudes when they feel annoyed in doing their works, this is also why some customers complaint on they got rude services in the chain. Efficiency is achieved by understanding the workers motivational patterns. Professor Abrahim Maslow cited in his research the 5 need factors, for example security, social and esteem. This factors are ethical and enhances productivity at KFC both local and internationally.
When employees happy, they will work happily and then treat their customer better, the golden rule is to recognize the differences is cultures and economic development of the countries. To better value KFC, the fair trade concept is to be utilized further to firms, community involvement, targeting should be the code of practices in KFC.
4. Strategic Options and the Recommendations to KFC
To my understanding and learning the recommendations and strategic options to KFC to improve and to defend themselves against the critics.
- KFC should have the responsibilities to take care their employees’ health and safety in their workplace, what employer can and should do is offer higher wages to compensate the risk measure by different position.
- A better one to ensure their workers against unknown accident that might happen anytime, employer should provide them with suitable insurance programs. A little bit costly, but a good one is advise KFC to form a special team, to collect information, researching on the health and safety issue on the working environment which where their workers facing everyday. Then come out with the results together with solution and steps recommendations information available to all KFC employees around the world. “Excessive job specialization is undesirable for other reasons than that it places unjust burdens on workers. There is also considerable evidence that it does not contribute to efficiency. Research findings have demonstrated that there is a link-age between worker productivity and programs that improve the quality of work life for workers by giving workers greater involvement in and control over a variety work tasks. ” (Manuel G. Velasques 1996: pg 462)
- Thus, KFC should make the operation efficiently like held parties involved customer and workers quarterly, or a outstanding idea such as choose the best worker in different country and offer them to have exchange colleague (similar with exchange student) to work in other country’s outlet with a duration one to three months with fully allowanced by company, this sure will motivated workers to do hard work on their working days.
- The stakeholders’ management should include the improvement in Communications, where there is possible setback the ‘whistle blowing’ ethic should be applied as a strategic option where as the recommendations would be to set up a panel to do constant analysis on different options as the Marketing, and Operations issues, for instance the coordination activities in Service Management, Public Relation and Advertising techniques. The ethical theory of Technological or Consequentialist states the “end justify the means”. This further is depended by Kants ethics of duty. The consequentialism is that human welfare is best served by moral responsibilities.
- Equal rights refers to equal opportunities for all workers with out exploitation. Buddha in his teachings said “do not do what is evil, do what is good, keep your mind pure”.