McDonald’s recently worked with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to conduct an analysis of which raw material inputs have the most potential sustainability impact. They have decided to focus on five areas – beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil, and packaging – which can be seen in their recently released “Sustainable Land Management Commitment”.
The company is developing a pilot program with the goal of tracing and certifying sustainable beef in the Amazon region. Beef ranching is to blame for over 80% of deforestation in the Amazon rain forest and the potential impact that McDonald’s, the largest global food service retailer in the world, can have is immense. As a member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef they are not alone in these efforts and are taking the lead alongside industry giants Cargill and WalMart.
McDonald’s has restated a commitment to not purchase chickens from suppliers who use Amazonian soy chicken feed, originally established after a 2006 report by Greenpeace on the negative effects of soy production. In the meantime, they are part of the Roundtable for Responsible Soy to encourage those in the value chain to change their practices, but no commitments have been made to support strategic suppliers of chicken, such as Cargill, any incentive to change. Unfortunately, the company is not focused on any other aspect of sustainable poultry such as requiring suppliers to abide by cage-free or antibiotic-free standards.
McDonald’s has committed to purchase 100% of coffee with sustainable certifications and by 2015 to purchase 100% sustainable certified palm oil. To accomplish this they have become a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Paml Oil.
Finally, wood fibers make up most of McDonald’s packaging, and they are attempting to move towards using only suppliers that boast third party certification. With the huge market power of McDonald’s there will be major shifts in supporting already sustainably certified suppliers and pressuring those without to come on board. From a macro point of view, the commitments that McDonald’s is making to partake in industry-wide actions (i.e. RSPO) will play a crucial role in developing sustainability throughout international supply chains and will support all food service businesses worldwide to have an greater impact on the supply chain.