In 2010, the issue of water management and water balancing became a much more visible part of corporate sustainability strategies — a storyline that will unfold in more detail over the next 24 months. In 2011, the noise level surrounding sustainable food sourcing and land management is becoming a much louder refrain. The latest specific case in point is a declaration this week from McDonald’s Corp. that, over the long term, it will commit to suppliers for its agricultural raw materials that originate from sustainably managed land.
Here’s the declaration from Francesca DeBiase, vice president for strategic sourcing:
“We know that our customers care about where their food comes from. McDonald’s and our suppliers have taken many positive steps in the past 20 years to improve the sustainability of our supply chain, and now we’re reaching even higher with our vision for sourcing all of our food and packaging from certified sustainable sources.”
I understand that many of you may be skeptical about this statement and about how long to play out. Regardless, stop to think about what it means. There were 32,737 McDonald’s restaurants globally at the end of 2010 (apparently, second only to Subway’s restaurants). Therefore, the impact of any sustainable business practice adopted by the fast-food giant is likely to be felt worldwide.
- The restaurant management company will work with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef to address business practices surrounding beef production.
- It is backing a three-year-long study to track and analyze the carbon emissions impact of 350 beef farms in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
- It is joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and has embraced plans to source only palm oil certified by the RSPO by 2015. (Kellogg’s also took a leadership position on this issue about a week ago.)
- It is becoming part of the Sustainability Consortium, which is an organization helping building base practices related to sustainability processes and life-sciences
I spent some time poking around the McDonald’s 2010 sustainability report as I was researching this post and I fled compelled to share this link, where you can read about some of the best practices in energy management and water consumption that have already found their way into McDonald’s operations. One example: new fryers that use less energy (about 4 percent on average), less oil (40 percent reduction) and use fuels that require less package (the packages for oil used with the fryers cause less waste).
There are a lot of things that make it tough for me to think about fast food restaurants as sustainable operations, but McDonald’s is definitely trying to rewrite the rules and given its worldwide influence it would be wrong not to hope for more progress.