McDonald’s launches plan to green its menu

McDonald’s has announced an ambitious sustainability program that will re-examine the source of its food. The policy will initially focus on five commodities: beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil, and packaging.

Last week’s announcement came wrapped in a slew of corporate sustainability promises. The Sustainable Land Management Commitment, or SLMC, will require that suppliers use agricultural raw materials – unprocessed or minimally processed materials from nature – that originate from sustainably managed lands.

“McDonald’s serves customers around the world, and we accept the responsibility that comes with our global presence,” said McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner. “We will continue to focus our energy on developing sustainable sourcing practices and broadening our menu choices. Each year, we set goals that challenge us to put our resources toward strengthening communities and helping maintain a world that can carry all of us well into the future.”

McDonald’s actions initially will be focused on five raw material priorities — beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil and packaging. Based on a thorough analysis conducted in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the five raw materials which are the initial focus of the SLMC were identified as having the most potential sustainability impacts.

As part of the SLMC, McDonald’s:

  • is working with a multi-stakeholder group, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and select Regional Roundtables, to improve the sustainability of beef production;

  • has sponsored and is piloting a three-year beef farm study — the largest of its kind — to investigate the carbon emissions on 350 beef farms across the UK and Ireland;

  • is joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) this year and has committed to source only RSPO-certified Palm Oil by 2015;

  • has joined the Sustainability Consortium — an independent organization dedicated to implementing measureable progress based on life-cycle science.

A big part of the project includes the banning of beef sourced from slaughterhouses within the Amazon Biome. To green chicken supplies, the company also imposed a series of moratoriums on all soy feed purchased from deforested areas of the Amazon. Soy is the major component of chicken feed.

Coffee and wood fibers for product packaging will also be sourced from third-party certified, sustainable sources.

Meanwhile, palm oil – which is used as the frying oil in restaurants – will also be revisited, as rising demand in palm tree plantations have resulted in the clear-cutting of native, tropical forests. The company pledged to switch to certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.

McDonald’s has 32,000 locations in 117 countries.

Just last month, two former veteran executives from McDonald’s announced plans to start their own fast-food chain that would ban butter, cream, high-fructose corn syrup and frying oil. The Lyfe Kitchen, which stands for “Love Your Food Everyday,” will open its first restaurant in Palo Alto this year, with plans to build 250 more locations across the US over the next few years.

The fast-food outlet will be spearheaded by former McDonald’s president and chief operating officer Mike Roberts, former communications boss Mike Donahue, in collaboration with Oprah’s personal chef, Art Smith. The dish on the new fast-food chain is that menu items will be sourced from sustainable, local farms.