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June 26, 2012
ICCR Commends Disney on Advertising by Food and Beverage Companies
    by Robert Kropp

The media giant announces that food and beverage products advertised on its networks will be required to meet nutritional guidelines that are aligned with federal standards.

In a shareowner resolution filed with McDonald's this year, Harrington Investments requested that the fast food giant issue a report "assessing the company's policy responses to growing evidence of linkages between fast food and childhood obesity, diet-related diseases and other impacts on children's health."

"A study from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) concluded that fast food marketing influences children's food preferences, diets and health," the resolution stated.

The responsibility for marketing healthy food choices to children extends beyond companies in the food and beverage industry to include the media as well. Earlier this month, Disney announced that by 2015, all food and beverage products advertised on Disney media will be required to meet its nutrition guidelines.

The nutrition guidelines, established by Disney in 2006, "are aligned to federal standards, promote fruit and vegetable consumption and call for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium, and sugar," the company said in a statement.

Advertisers that do not comply with Disney's guidelines will be prohibited from purchasing advertising space on the media giant's networks.

Speaking at a press conference announcing the initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama said, "This is a major American company, a global brand that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives."

"I'm thrilled that over the next couple of years, when our kids tune into their favorite shows on Disney channels or they log onto the Disney web site, they will no longer be bombarded with unhealthy messages during those commercial breaks," she continued. "Instead, they will see ads for foods that we might actually want them to eat."

Citing risks associated with litigation and regulatory scrutiny, the sustainable investors at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) applauded Disney's decision as well.

"The risk of litigation from obesity-related illness should be enough of an impetus to begin tailoring product offerings towards healthier, more nutritious alternatives," ICCR Program Director Nadira Narine said. "Disney's new advertising requirements provide additional incentive to both the food and beverage industries and the media industry to pay close attention to their messaging."

Cathy Rowan of Trinity Health added, ”We are seeing increased scrutiny from industry regulators regarding false and misleading labeling and marketing claims, and there are even calls from local officials to impose bans on 'supersized', high calorie food and beverage products in an effort to control our nation's obesity epidemic. We congratulate the Disney Company on this important, proactive initiative."

And Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management said, "Disney's decision to self-regulate by developing standards for advertisers on their networks is a powerful illustration of corporate social responsibility in action and they are to be commended."


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