GBN recently wrote about the issue of single use plastics and mentioned a petition sent to McDonald’s asking the company to stop using plastic straws. The company has since announced several sustainability initiatives.
The initiatives address concerns voiced by consumers across a wide range of business practices. Since McDonald’s footprint touches all parts of the world, their announcement matters because it commits one of the world’s biggest companies to delivering significant emission reductions.
Tackling Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
MacDonald’s is the first restaurant company to set an approved science-based target to reduce GHG emissions. A carbon emissions target is defined as science-based if it is in line with the scale of reductions required to keep global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
By 2030, the global fast-food chain aims to reduce GHG emissions from its restaurants and offices by thirty-six percent and the carbon intensity (C.I) of food and packaging by thirty-one percent. In order to achieve the target, the corporation will focus on the biggest contributors to its carbon footprint:
- beef production
- energy usage
- and waste.
If reached, the target would be the equivalent of removing 32 million cars from circulation for a year.
To re-iterate its commitment to sustainable goals, the corporation has recently signed the “We are still in” declaration. The declaration demonstrates America’s commitment to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement and was released shortly after Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement. To date, it has been signed by more than 2,600 American business leaders, representing $6.2 trillion of the US economy.
Comprehensive plastic reduction
An estimated 12 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. With customer packaging waste being the top issue for consumers, McDonald’s have unveiled plans to improve its packaging and to reduce waste. The company has committed to 100 percent of its guest packaging coming from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2020, doubling its current standards.
Recently, McDonald’s announced that it would be replacing plastic straws with paper ones in the UK and will roll out a “straw on request” policy in other markets. The company uses 3.7 million straws per day in the UK and close to half a billion per day in the US.
In 2012, McDonald’s phased out polystyrene foam cups in the US but continued to use them in foreign markets. The company is now committed to eliminating all polystyrene packaging globally by 2018.
World-wide, only 10 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are recycling customer packaging. While this is attributed to different infrastructures and behaviors from country to country, McDonald’s has set a goal to recycle 100 percent of its customer packaging.
Animal welfare is a growing concern
Earlier this month six animal welfare groups collectively purchased a full page advertisement in the New York Times. The advert, in the form of an open letter to McDonald’s, asked the company to honour its past commitments made in October 2017. They included
- implementing higher animal welfare standards for its chicken supply chain by switching to healthier breeds of birds
- using suppliers who provide more room for chickens to move
- using suppliers who monitor air and litter quality
- and providing environmental enrichment.
As part of animal welfare efforts, the company announced the launch of the Chicken Advisory Council. The Council will be made up of key suppliers, academics, researchers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
It is expected to identify a ‘comprehensive set of chicken welfare outcomes’ that can be applied globally across McDonald’s supply chain. McDonald’s will then use these outcomes to set progressive targets and improve standards that will be third party verified.
The company has further promised to develop on-farm camera monitoring systems to better measure welfare outcomes that cannot be assessed commercially. McDonald’s will work in conjunction with technology companies, suppliers and producers on the programme.
Carter Roberts, President and CEO of the WWF in the US said, “while private-sector actions can’t entirely solve the climate crisis facing our planet, significant announcements like these, and coalitions like these working on climate together, create momentum and movement toward the scale of solutions that we ultimately need.”
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