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​Media Travel and Leisure

This page provides information about green initiatives of major firms like McDonald's, Walt Disney and Time Warner.

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​Media Travel and Leisure | Introduction | Community | Social responsibility | Environment | Supply chain | Pros and cons | Conclusion


The organizations in this category have a vast number of initiatives intend​ed to support the environment, the community, and society as a whole in a sustainable fashion. They have approached sustainability from different viewpoints, and some advertise their efforts more than others, but they all encourage and support giving back to society.

Some of the companies we have chosen to emphasize include such widely-known names as Disney, McDonald's, Starbucks, Delta, Carnival, Darden Restaurants, and Southwest. We interact with some of these companies on a weekly, if not daily, basis, and it is important to highlight their efforts in promoting sustainability.


Nearly all of the organizations in this category have some sort of basic community outreach programs promoted on their website. In addition to the near-ubiquitous corporate giving (to charities, foundations, scholarships, disaster relief, etc), there is a visible focus on promoting and encouraging employee volunteerism in both corporate-sponsored activities as well as individual efforts. Some of the companies promote their community giving intensely, devoting large sections of their websites to the topic, and devoting a great amount of attention and detail to the discussion of these efforts, while some companies, despite high rankings from Newsweek, do very little to promote these efforts on their websites.

Corporate Giving

Regardless of the method of giving, nearly all of the companies reviewed promote corporate giving on their websites. From large entities such as the Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity to local families torn apart by disaster, from local charities to micro-financing for people and businesses a world away, the recipients of such generosity run the gamut.

In addition to donating to broad charities such as Habitat for Humanity, most companies contribute towards organizations that work in areas similar to the core business of the company. For example, Disney is a company that strives to be family-friendly in every aspect, so it is not surprising that the company supports a multitude of child-friendly charities. Darden Restaurants, whose brands include Olive Garden and Red Lobster, donates surplus food to local charities and supports organizations that work to develop better solutions to feed the nation’s hungry.

Beyond corporate giving, some companies donate at the individual level. The Las Vegas Sands is a company that provides crisis support in southern Nevada to individuals or families in the community who are facing a crisis such as a fire, accident, sudden illness, etc, where the family or individual is experiencing severe financial hardship. This program is a lifeline for those who have exhausted all other means of support (from the Red Cross, church groups, etc), but still need a helping hand to get back on their feet.

The Arts and Education

Many companies, in addition to the corporate giving discussed above, also have programs that focus on the arts. As arts programs in schools have continued to be eliminated for budgetary reasons, private and corporate programs have been created and promoted to fill the gap. Time Warner is an excellent example of a company working within its local community to promote the arts.

Time Warner has set up a number of programs to encourage and promote the arts. One such program brings young writers to New York City to meet and engage with playwriters, view Broadway plays, and work with the Sundance Institute. Delta also supports the arts, and was recently named Corporation of the Year by the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries for its support of the visual arts. Disney is a leading supporter of New York City's Lincoln Center, in addition to efforts to support arts programs in schools, both through corporate donation and the fundraising of its cast members.

Another focus of Time Warner (and many of the companies studied) is promoting education and learning. Time Warner helps students prepare to transition to college, via support of college prep courses and scholarships for high school seniors. Yum! Foods and McGraw Hill support education via programs for students still in school, with programs like Book It and donation drives to get more books into classrooms, schools, and libraries. Finally, Disney provides college scholarships to the children of its employees as well as deserving students in the communities in which it does business.

Employee Volunteerism

Finally, the last major trend in community responsibility with corporations in this category is encouraging volunteerism in its employees. Cruise companies such as Carnival have created programs where volunteerism in local communities and national charities is recognized through its “Friends Uniting Neighbors” initiative, which recognizes extraordinary employee effort in local volunteering. Southwest has a similar program, rewarding its staff members for volunteerism. In 2008, 26 members of its staff were honored for their commitment to helping others in their local communities.

Unsurprisingly, given the focus Disney places on family and community, volunteerism is a large focus of Disney’s community service plan. Disney actively encourages all of its cast members to be involved in the local community, and support this effort via team building exercises at soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity, an intranet with volunteer postings, and matching funds raised by its employees. For example, in 2008, Disney cast members developed 2,236 projects and raised over $8,000,000 for local organizations. In this regard, Disney is truly a trend-setter.

Social responsibility

The media travel and leisure industry consists of some of the biggest corporations in America, most of which have made consistent efforts in building sustainability through corporate social responsibility. From ethical sourcing of raw materials to promoting diversity within the workplace, most of the companies in this industry do all this and more. In our analysis, we looked at twenty of the top ranked companies in this industry to find out how they incorporated socially responsible initiatives in their business practices, and this is what we found.


The top companies in this sector take their role of social responsibility – both within their companies and in the community – very seriously, primarily with regard to information sharing through the media platforms that are core to their business.

As a television media content provider, Liberty Entertainment Group focuses on fostering discussions in the community on media-related issues regarding responsibility of the media, government and public in the roll of information in the public. For example, in 2010, the company is sponsoring a contest focused on debating the relationship between economic liberty and political liberty. Similarly, Time Warner encourages freedom of expression through its various magazines and television channels. For instance, in 2007, before the US Presidential elections, CNN partnered with YouTube to question the presidential candidates through self-made videos that were submitted to the two national debates. CBS provides closed-captioning, on their television shows, for the hearing impaired and also voluntarily provide 4 hours per week of programming that is video described for the visually impaired. McGraw Hill, through its publishing house – McGraw Hill Education, incorporates sustainability lessons in its text books for children of all ages.

One thing most of these companies have in common are the various diversity initiatives that each of them have in place. Comcast for instance, has a Diversity Council that ensures diversity is promoted and implemented in the organization at all levels. In the case of Time Warner, not only do they ensure diversity and inclusivity within the workplace through groups like Alianza (HBO’s Hispanic Employee Networking Resource) and TWWN (Time Warner Women’s Network) among others, but also through channels that cater to a diverse audience such as HBO Latino and Time Inc.’s
Essence magazine, a magazine for African-American women. CBS has a Diversity team that works internally to ensure that the network caters to a large variety of audiences. This team also sponsors showcases with theatre companies like SAG and AFTRA to discover emerging talent. McGraw Hill supports the diversity of its work force through Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) such as, Asian Professionals for Excellence (APEX) and Black Employees at McGraw-Hill (BEAM) and Diversity Councils.


Delta’s social responsibility measures are focused on global diversity and tolerance and global wellness. In support of global diversity, Delta has a very strong statement outlining all the identities and groups that are protected from discrimination in the company. Additionally, the world’s largest airline also supports the following organizations: United Negro College Fund, the Dr. Joseph Lowery Scholarship at Morehouse University, Pride celebrations in New York, Atlanta, and Minneapolis as well as many other causes. Delta also works towards improving global wellness by supporting the American Red Cross, healthcare advocacy groups and charities such as St. Jude’s and the Children’s Miracle Network. Carnival Cruise lines, on the other hand, ensures social responsibility by focusing primarily on sustainability initiatives related to community and the environment.


Walt Disney fits into both the media and leisure categories. Apart from being one of the most well-loved brands in the world, Disney is also making a name for itself as a socially responsible organization through the various initiatives it has undertaken in this regard. A website devoted to online safety for children and a new devotion to kids’ health and nutrition are among the notable ones. They also follow programming standards and practices and marketing practices guidelines that ensure they reach out to their target audience in the most appropriate manner possible. Disney is devoted to content that is both child and parent friendly, with commitments to eliminate smoking from programming under an “R” rating, consistently portraying characters of diverse backgrounds, and programming promoting healthy eating. Additionally, the company is devoted to partnering with parents to build trust in the brand and encouraging a family experience. It ensures child safety through online games and sites that have little or no third party advertising. Additionally, sites like Club Penguin allow parents to view the child’s history, chat permissions, etc.


While every casino employs different methods to build sustainability into its business practices, when it comes to social responsibility in particular, all of them are on more or less on equal footing. One thing all the four casino resorts that we looked at – Wynn, Las Vegas Sands, Penn National Gaming and MGM Mirage – had in common was their commitment to responsible gaming practices. Wynn and MGM Mirage adhere to the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Code of conduct that includes training employees in the right gaming practices and advertising responsibly. Las Vegas Sands conducts a detailed training program for its employees –
Play Responsibly – and also partners with local gambling recovery organizations. Penn National Gaming has similar practices that deal with issues like underage gambling and the improper use of alcohol, among other things. Each of them also has gaming help lines for customers in need of them.

In addition to this, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Mirage are both devoted to equal opportunities and actively encourage diversity within their staff. Las Vegas Sands also has several leadership programs for minorities (Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises).


Among restaurant and fast-food chains, there is considerable variety in corporate social responsibility practices. Some of them do have similarities though, especially with regard to promoting the nutritional value of their respective products and diversity. McDonald’s ensures a holistic approach towards nutrition and well-being by providing consumers with easy access to nutritional information of their products and tailoring their marketing practices in a manner that is suitable for children. They also have a Farm-to-Counter food safety program that monitors all aspects of the production process. Yum! Brands not only creates awareness about product nutrition but also emphasizes physical activity in order to promote the health of its customers. To further this, Yum! has created a Nutrition Task Force, the purpose of which is to promote a balance diet, offer a variety of menu options and help communicate a healthy lifestyle. Burger King has kids meal options that are created keeping their nutritional value in mind. They recently introduced Fresh Apple Fries (fresh-cut, skinless red apples) with low-fat caramel dipping sauce, as a substitute to french fries along with Hershey's 1 percent low-fat milk.

Almost all the above fast-food chains rank diversity high on the list of their sustainability practices. Burger King partners with the Diversity Action Council (DAC), an independent advisory body and also has an internal Inclusion Steering Committee to promote and ensure the diversity with respect to the business strategy as well as their internal employees. While McDonald’s promotes diversity through several educational programs for its employees, Yum! Brands has a dedicated Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer who is responsible for initiatives and strategies that increase inclusivity in the workplace.
Starwood has a Diversity Council that meets to work within the company to ensure that minorities are included and encouraged to aspire to higher positions. Programs such as Minority Hotel Owner, Managing Inclusion, and Global English provide English lessons to those for whom English is not their first language. Darden Restaurants place a lots of emphasis on diversity – in its workforce, supplier base and community outreach. Publications such as Latina Style, DiversityInc and Hispanic Business have all recently recognized Darden as a noteworthy company in the field of diversity, something that can be traced back to the emphasis the company places on mirroring the diversity of the local community in its restaurant workforce. The social responsibility initiatives of Starbucks include ethically sourcing its raw materials, helping farmers grow coffee in a socially responsible way and ensuring healthy and safe living conditions for them.


Environmental compliance is being one of major business issues. Stakeholders need to know that an organization is contributing for reducing environmental liabilities. In addition to their commitment to conduct businesses in compliance with all applicable environmental laws and regulations, the media travel and leisure industry are committed to exploring new policies for reducing their environmental loads. Environmental activity, a national standard for enhancing energy and environmental design, and special environmental protecition teams are expected to play a key role in the development of environmental commitment.

Environmental Activity

In order to minimize the environmental impact of business operations, companies monitor and analyze the types and amounts of resources and energy consumed by various processes and resulting environmental impacts. The basic approach to these environmental impacts is to establish and maintain environmental management systems. Like Walt Disney, Carnival, and Starbucks, global eco-minded companies oversee greenhouse gases reduction, waste disposal, recycling, and formulate basic policies, manage targets, and address any issues that emerge.

Disney, for example, has long supported the environment, with the company setting aside 1/3 of its property in Florida aside for wildlife conservation in perpetuity as early as the 1960s. Since then, the company has focused on reducing greenhouse gasses, with a goal of 0 net greenhouse emissions as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption. By 2012, Disney is hoping to reduce emissions by 50%, and is aggressively pursuing renewable sources of energy for its electricity consumption. Additionally, the company is actively pursuing water conservation and reclamation. Today, over 6M gallons of water are reclaimed at the Orlando resort to support irrigation and decorative lakes, and additional reclaimed water is returned to the Florida aquifer.

Unlike Diseny, media industry make a distinct contribution to enviromental issues. CBS, which is a major American television network, contributes to impact the protection of the environment by broadcasting and publishing in an environmentally responsible manner. Their environmental campaign programs and public service announcements educate viewer and listeners on ways to recycle, reduce waste, save water and other tips to help save the environment.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is rapidly being promoted among companies. The LEED certification is a national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings that focus on open space, recycling, conservation of water and energy, and a reduction in waste. LEED certification is recognized nationwide as proof that a building is environmentally responsible, reliable, and a healthy place to stay and work.

Comcast Center, for example, has achieved LEED Gold certification. This building is the most technologically advanced and energy efficient commercial operation to have taken every possible consideration of the environment into account. Starbucks also has done all this and more to improve the design elements. Their goal is to achieve LEED certification globally for all new, company-owned stores beginning in late 2010.

Environmental Protection Team

Many companies create environmental action teams like "Green team" in Darden Restaurants and Southwest Airline in order to further serve to increase environmental consciousness among employees. Darden Restaurants, for example, has developed “green teams” in each of its 1800 restaurants which are focused on reducing the company’s carbon footprint through water, energy, and waste issues at the individual outlet level. Additionally, Southwest Airline has a Team of Employee volunteers from across the organization dedicated to furthering our environmental efforts. The Green Team is comprised of Employees from all our business functions united under one common goal of enhancing the level of our Environmental Stewardship through daily action. Under the leadership of the teams, companies promote the establishment of their environmental management system to achieve systematic and ongoing environmental commitment.

Overall, most of media travel and leisure companies put environmental activities at the core of their sustainability policies. In order to respond to global environmental issues, company’s policies, activities, and management grow increasingly diverse. Promoting sustainable consumption and production are important aspects of sustainable development, which depend on achieving long-term company growth that is consistent with environmental and social needs.

Supply chain

Food Industry

The supply chain is very important for the food industry. Both the quality of the end product and customer satisfaction is dependent on the suppliers. Companies work hard to ensure their vendors are providing the quality items necessary for the industry in a sustainable manner.

To ensure quality food, many companies select suppliers based on rigid criteria. For example, Yum! selection’s matrix is based on sanitation, facility management, good manufacturing practices, and food security. Whether their selection criteria are as rigid, all the companies researched maintain specific standards to the quality of the food.

Their responsibilities do not end with food quality. Instead, the companies also look to how the animals were treated. Whether from fear of litigation, loss of customers, or simply being ethically minded, the companies researched insist their suppliers care for the animals and livestock in a humane manner. Yum!’s subsidiary, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King created animal welfare advisory councils in order to ensure the suppliers look to animal welfare. All of these companies look to ensure that the animals are free from cruelty, abuse, and neglect. However, there is more to animal welfare than simply abuse and neglect. McDonald’s, for instance, uses its report to assert that it works with its suppliers in order to limit the spread of agriculture disease.

Long-term sustainability is another key issue within the food industry. Companies with long-term vision are working with their suppliers to ensure their business can survive and environmental impact can be limited. McDonald’s asserts its commitment to sustainable agriculture. Darden is focusing on extending efforts for seafood sustainability. Burger King sources from sustainable fisheries and purchases cage-free eggs and sow gestation stall-free pork. Starbucks established guidelines entitled Coffee and Farmer Equity, creating standards for waste management, protecting water quality, conserving water and energy, preserving biodiversity, and reducing agrochemical usage.

While some companies may not have issues with animals and livestock, all engage with suppliers throughout the world. Each of these companies have provided goals in working with suppliers to maintain ethical responsibility. Some companies have also looked to other standards within the supply chain. Starbucks, for example, is working to create and develop diversity, sponsoring organizations like the National Minority Supplier Development Council. All of these activities are critical to ensuring a sustainable supply chain that provides quality, healthy inputs for the restaurant and foodservice industry.


Disney and McGraw Hill represents the only two retail companies in our study. While there is no concern for food quality and animal welfare, the supply chain offers several areas for these companies to promote sustainable practices in its business partners, with a key focus on labor requirements and diversity.

Both companies work to ensure their suppliers adhere to employment law. Furthermore, each work to instill workforce standards, compliance with safety regulations, and forbid the use of child labor. Disney works to educate its supply chain in order to actually improve the labor standards of the employees.

There are some differences in their supply chain focus as well. McGraw Hill created supplier diversity program in order to support minority and female-owned businesses. McGraw Hill has also instituted an environmental criteria as part of its performance evaluations of its suppliers. Disney is concerned with product safety standards and monitoring its suppliers handling of intellectual property.


Starwood and MGM Mirage are two hospitality and gaming companies dedicated to sustainability in the supply chain, mostly through a mutual concern for diversity in suppliers. MGM, for example, created full-time position to monitor its commitment to work with minority, women, and disadvantaged business owners. Not only this, but also the company created a website in order to more easily identify potential suppliers. The company also created a Purchasing Diversity Committee in order to determine best practices for the company.

MGM has also instilled an environmental component into its supply chain focus. The company has reduced transportation by having grocery vendors commit to delivering 90% of all items through a maximum of two distributors. Another initiative is MGM’s intent to reduce supply orders, reuse available supplies, reduce delivery truck emissions, and minimize packaging by consolidating its extra office supplies and making them available to any department in need of them.


Time Warner is focused on ethical and green standards in its sustainability initiatives. In addition to its Ethical Sourcing Guidelines, ensuring global standards at each level of its supply chain, the company has also joined the Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) Beyond Monitoring group. This group’s express purpose is to identify factor non-compliance. Time Warner has also worked to ensure compliance of its green standards. For example, HBO has made an effort to purchase products and establish environmental criteria in its purchasing processes to reduce the impact on the environment.


The two companies reviewed within the transportation industry were Carnival and Southwest airlines. While their medium of transportation is quite different, their focus in the supply chain is similar. Both are concerned with fuel and both are looking to alternative sources of fuel as their primary supply chain sustainability projects.

Pros and cons

Sustainability initiatives are often looked upon questioningly by businesses as costly investments with poorly defined returns. Different companies use different methods for evaluating the costs and benefits of sustainability initiatives, and often choose to move forward with implementation even if the economic benefits are not clear, as the image benefits are perceived to be worthwhile.

Food Industry

There are lots of emotions and passion associated with food production: consumers are concerned about the safety of what they eat, the environment in which livestock is raised, and the quality of life of the farmers and fishers who gather raw materials. As the world’s largest restaurant chain, McDonalds is very conscious of its image and has introduced campaigns for animal welfare in its supply chain in an effort to bolster its public image, along with eliminating Styrofoam packaging. Darden Restaurants has a very strong food source sustainability initiative that focuses on developing sustainable fishing and agricultural practices around the globe. Darden has found that this not only helps to ensure a reliable source of safe inputs, but customers are increasing becoming sensitive to the origins of their food, so sourcing sustainability initiatives help to differentiate Darden’s products on the market.

Starbucks has done an excellent job of differentiating itself from competition by promoting sustainability through community, supply chains, the environment, and social responsibility. Though Starbucks has many less expensive substitutes, , Starbucks has successfully branded its products as more than coffee; each purchase a customer makes helps contribute to sustainability. By utilizing fair trade coffee, sponsoring global clean water initiatives, and other activities, Starbucks’ brand stands out in consumers’ minds as standing for sustainability just as much as for coffee.


Focusing on sustainability, particularly at the community involvement level, has been a focus for the gaming industry for decades. While critics point fingers at gaming as immoral or deleterious to communities, companies such as Penn National Gaming make an unbelievably concerted effort to promote community involvement. By offering use of facilities to charities, encouraging and rewarding employees who become community volunteers and leaders and donating financial resources to local causes, gaming companies have largely been able to influence their host communities that their social benefits are greater than the social costs to individuals and families affected by gambling problems. Las Vegas Sands also engages in a very strong community involvement program that places emphasis on assisting at-risk employees and community members in general. While there are certainly financial costs of giving considerable sums of money back to the community, there is a large risk without it; groups of the public opposed to gambling could easily create problems for the long term sustainability of the businesses themselves.


In general, there are lots of financial benefits for implementing sustainable practices in day-to-day business. Delta airlines spends a considerable amount of its revenue of on fuel, so it not only makes environmental sense to invest in biofuel research, but it also makes financial sense—if the company can foster development of less expensive fuels that are also healthier for the environment, the company wins on both fronts. It takes a lot of fuel to push a massive cruise ship across the ocean, and also to power all of the shipboard activities. While it may be slightly more expensive for Carnival Cruise Lines to spend more on ships that are fuel and energy efficient, the potential savings are tremendous. Decreased fuel expenses, water use and waste to process all go straight to the bottom line, and can be used as marketing tools to reach customers concerned about their environmental impact while they vacation.

It could be argued that livestock subject to cruelty and unsanitary conditions are less expensive and possibly indistinguishable by consumers’ taste buds, but responsible sourcing of food inputs also helps to ensure stability of the supply chain. Global overfishing is a prime example—many stocks of fish have been harvested at levels beyond the natural rate of replenishment; if these practices continue it is quite possible for some stocks to disappear. As a large portion of the global diet’s protein is from fish, there could be tremendous international consequences for large disruptions in the fish supply, so it is a definite necessity that companies such as Darden and McDonalds work to ensure the maintenance of sustainable levels of fish.


In the end, sustainability boils down to two main advantages for companies—public perception and branding and costs. The public is coming to realize that we are responsible for maintaining the earth, and that, with enough irresponsible actions, humans do have the power to effect long term negative change on the earth. Sustainability is increasingly seen as a necessity in the mind of consumers, and companies that fully and sincerely embrace sustainability initiatives are likely to gain a large competitive advantage over other firms through improved public perception. The financial side is slightly harder to quantify, but there are some tremendous financial benefits of sustainability, particularly on the environmental side. Delta and Carnival stand to save millions of dollars a year in fuel expenses if the bio fuel research they promote results in decreased fuel costs. Restaurants can’t feed customers without safe food, so sustainable practices could be considered necessary to doing any food service business, particularly a large one with global reach. It is very hard to justify financial savings thought to be associated with ignoring the community, physical and cultural environments of a firm, and the firms who have embraced sustainable practices in these fields and others have shown that the benefits can be tremendous.


McDonald's: http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/good/report.html
Yum!: http://www.yum.com/responsibility/default.asp
Burger King: http://www.bk.com/en/us/company-info/corporate-responsibility/index.html
Carnival: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=140690&p=irol-sustainability
Disney: http://disney.go.com/crreport/overview/corpresponsibility.html
Las Vegas Sands: http://www.lasvegassands.com/LasVegasSands/Corporate_Overview/About_Us.aspx
Starwood Hotels: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/corporate/company_values.html
Time Warner: http://www.timewarner.com/corp/citizenship/index.page/tw_csr_report08.pdf
McGraw Hill: http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/cr/docs/climatechange.pdf
Starbucks: http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility
MGM Mirage: http://www.mgmmiragediversity.com/
Southwest Airline: http://www.southwest.com/about_swa/southwest_cares/southwestcares_6_8_09.pdf\
Comcast: http://www.cmcsk.com/documentdisplay.cfm?DocumentID=6024
Darden Restaurants: http://www.darden.com/commitment/community/giving_themes.asp
Darden Restaurants: http://www.darden.com/commitment/community/employee_engagement.asp
Delta: http://www.delta.com/about_delta/global_good/global_diversity/index.jsp)
Delta: http://www.delta.com/about_delta/global_good/global_wellness/index.jsp)
Liberty Entertainment: http://www.libertymedia.com/liberty-gives.aspx
Penn National Gaming: http://www.pngaming.com/main/supportcom.shtml