Fast food giant McDonald’s plans to implement its recent pledge to purchase sustainable beef using region-specific standards for its suppliers.
By handing over responsibility to its 36,000 restaurants, the company said they can achieve sustainability goals relevant to their geographical location.
McDonald’s, which is the large buyer of beef in the US, vowed in January to buy only verified sustainable beef by 2016, asking its farmers to follow principles set by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. This was perhaps an attempt to its reputation as a sustainability “laggard“.
Jeffrey Hogue, McDonald’s senior director of global corporate social responsibility and sustainability, told Bloomberg that achieving its 2016 target “will depend on sustainability innovation that is unique to local restaurant markets”.
Speaking at the US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment’s (US SIF) annual conference, he added, “Innovation often occurs at the market level and bubbles up to other markets, rather being corporate-driven.”
Hogue said he would like to see restaurants making their own choices in achieving varied sustainability and energy efficiency targets. For example, one restaurant may decide to install energy efficient fryers, while another may buy LED lights.
He explained, “So we’re trying to drive the relevant innovation contextualized in the market, rather than say ‘Here are the 10 solutions you guys have to put in play.”
McDonald’s January commitment to sustainable beef caused some confusion among commentators – with some pointing to a UN report that suggested 14.5% of human-caused greenhouse emissions came from livestock.
The fast food chain was also rated as a sustainability ‘laggard’, along with Apple and ExxonMobil, in a report published last year by EIRIS, a responsible investment research group.
Correction: this article was updated to make it clear that McDonald’s would be using region-specific standards when purchasing sustainable beef, and not handing control to individual restaurants.
Photo: Rupert Ganzer via Flickr