Mc Donald’s has become a symbol of globalization, a flatter world. It’s one of the top 10 most valuable brands in the world (1) in 2016. World’s leading global food services retailer, The big mac is used by the Economist for the price parity index (2) across 100 countries it is present in.
But is this proliferation of the fast food giant synonymous with a laggard approach on climate change issues? As per, the most recent climate count rating for Mc Donald’s it has fallen in position(3) from last year. They are better than competitors like Yum foods and Wendy’s but way lower than some of the other climate conscious corporations.
Let’s review how McDonald’s is killing us one happy meal at a time, not just with obesity but also with climate impact. Mc Donald’s provides one of the cheapest meal options currently, but all of this comes at a cost. Not to the consumer, not to the corporation but also to the environment.
The Unhappy Meals
- Deforestation for Palm Oil – Mc Donald is one of the top 10 buyers of palm oil’s in the US and is currently purchasing only 13% (4) of the total oil from certified deforestation-free sources. As per the UCS USA, Mc Donald’s palm oil scorecard for 2015 is 24.4, only 3 points up from the previous year and categorized as a company with little commitment to the cause of deforestation.
- Beef and GHG emission – While unhealthy livestock practices to raise more cattle for more beef is an increasing cause of concern, the methane produced by corn fed cattle results in about 22 percent of methane emission in the US (5).
- Energy use across the supply chain – from production to running the swanky stores, Mc Donald’s reported a 6. increase in energy consumption per consumer (6) in 2014.
- Packaging and food wastes – the very packaging costs that help Mc Donald’s achieve a hefty bottom line also end up rotting in our landfills and causing pollution. As per a study done in 2009. Mc Donald’s packaging waste was 29% of the fast food litter on the roads. (7)
A number of environmental organizations have time and again shamed the burger chain to increase efforts in reducing its contribution to global warming and climate change. And that has led the burger giant to do a few of the below things in the name of green reporting and marketing
- It has signed President Obama’s ‘American Business Act on climate pledge’ (8)
- Supports sustainable beef – In 2014 the company aimed at purchasing a portion of it’s beef from sustainable beef sources. In 2011 it joined hands with the WWF and its suppliers to establish the Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (9). By 2020 the corporate envisions to use only sustainable beef.
- In Restaurant recycling – by 2020 the company plans to increase in – restaurant recycle to 50% and reduce waste. (10)
- Sustainable Palm Oil – By 2020 the company aims at shifting 100% to RSPO certified Palm oil (11)
- Sustainable packaging – Use 100% of the packaging material from fiber or recycled sources by 2020 (12). Efforts to achieve zero deforestation for all the fiber sourcing under its global commitment to deforestation.
- Energy goals – 20 percent increase in energy efficiency in company-owned restaurants. (13)
While all the above commitments look good in investor reports and annual reports and make a great PR case, the bigger problem is that climate change is posing an impending threat to Mc Donald’s sustainability as a business. The very operating model and business model that helped Big Mac become an object of price parity across nations are now becoming increasingly unsustainable. It’s a vicious circle. Earlier the burger behemoth was irresponsibly picking cheaper options, cutting costs, passing all the cost to environmental hazards but now with these initiatives it is again getting the cost in its own sheets. Which will further lead to price hikes and bring down the affordability of the ‘dollar menu’.
“Secret Sauce” for the future
The company needs to bring transformation across its supply chain.
- Start from grass fed cattle (who will release less methane compared to corn-fed cattle) ,
- Use methane compost bags on cows to stop methane from being released in the air, instead capture all of it and use it to produce bio-energy and self-sustain the farms, increasing energy efficiency.
- It can work hard in reducing energy consumption across stores by using energy-efficient devices. It can also set up equipment to convert all the restaurant waste into bio-energy, use solar panels to self-sustain the outlets.
This company can no longer shrug climate change, for its own good.
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- “The Big Mac index”. – http://www.economist.com/content/big-mac-index