By Melissa J. Anderson

Last Week McDonald’s released its 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report, which detailed its work toward in the areas of community relations, nutrition and wellbeing, and environmental progress. Indeed, the most reported news to come out of the report was the global company’s new commitment to improve the sustainability of its supply chain – for example, making sure its palm oil (in which is fries are fried) is certified sustainable by 2015, and working toward ensuring that its beef and poultry wasn’t raised in deforested parts of the Amazonian jungle.

The company chalks up its new environmental commitment to its values, 7 principles the Corporate Responsibility report mentions frequently – particularly the one about operating the business ethically.

The report also covers, in detail, the issues around employee retention, learning and development, and diversity. What is interesting is that while the values are frequently called into play in this section as well, the section dealing with employee experience is largely devoid of any references to sustainability.

It appears the company’s sustainability strategy – while considerable – is reserved for outreach. But internally, it’s a different story. The company focuses its internal efforts at retention, it’s Employee Value Proposition on “Family & Friends, Future, and Flexibity.”

McDonald’s acknowledges in the report that, as part of the fast food industry, turnaround is a problem for the company. So it works hard to provide an environment where staff feel emotionally connected to the company (and individual location) – whether that means providing learning and development opportunities, upward mobility, or morale-boosting activities.

For example, in 2009-2010, the company held its first global employee singing competition, the Voice of McDonald’s Contest, which included nearly 10,500 participants from 51 countries. The grand prize of US$25,000 was awarded to Chenee Capuyan from the Philippines.

The company has also been recognized several times for its work in gender diversity and the promotion of women. In fact, nearly 50% of all of McDonald’s-owned restaurants are managed by women. In 2009 (the last year for which there is data) 26.5% of worldwide top management team (VP and above) are women.

The company hopes to increase its efforts toward diversity in the near future, in order to better reflect its customer base. The report quotes the company’s Global Chief Diversity Officer and V.P. of Inclusion & Diversity, Patricia Sowell Harris, who wrote in her recent book, None of Us Is as Good as All of Us: How McDonald’s Prospers By Embracing Inclusion and Diversity.

She writes:

“Any company that hopes to serve a diverse customer base across the United States, and around the world, must reflect that same diversity in the restaurants, where we meet our customers face to face, and throughout our organization, where we design our products and services with the distinct wants and needs of our customers in mind. And our business results reflect the validity of mirroring our customers throughout our System very clearly.”

Internally, the company promotes itself by focusing on the warm-fuzzies of diversity, learning and development, and morale-boosting efforts – all good things – but it seems the company’s corporate responsibility goals are not aligned.

Externally it’s all about sustainability and nutrition. Internally it’s all about employee engagement. Shouldn’t sustainability be built into these employee engagement efforts as well? If McDonald’s internal and external values aren’t aligned, what does it say about the company’s true aspirations in these areas?