By: The Guardian
Global fast-food giant McDonald’s on Tuesday pledged to end deforestation across its entire supply chain.
The announcement follows recent similar pledges by Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Yum Brands and many others. But the World Wildlife Fund, which advised McDonald’s on its new commitment, said it could have big influence on other fast-food chains.
“McDonald’s brings size and scale to the debate of sustainable sourcing. Their reach is large, they are global, they work closely with the suppliers and so this outreach can only help,” said David McLaughlin, vice president of agriculture at the World Wildlife Fund.
But tackling deforestation has proven vastly complex, and with tens of thousands of franchises, the company faces super-sized challenges to meeting its goals.
In an eight-point commitment, McDonald’s promises not to contribute to deforestation in areas most critical to reducing carbon in the atmosphere, known as high carbon value and high carbon stock forests. These are areas of high environmental value, including high biodiversity, as well as high value to their communities, that are often in danger of being cleared to make way for plantations.
The world’s largest fast-food chain also said it would not source commodities from peatlands, or swampy areas that store a lot of carbon and can end up contributing to greenhouse gas emissions when disturbed.
This commitment will affect 3,100 of its global direct suppliers as well as its more complex network of indirect suppliers, said Michele Banik-Rake, director of sustainability for McDonald’s worldwide supply chain management.
Also on Tuesday, the company released a sustainable sourcing statement outlining how it will work with suppliers to ensure that the beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil and fiber-based packaging it uses do not contribute to deforestation.
In the commitment, the company also said it would respect human rights and verify where the raw materials used to make its products come from. The company said that it will suspend or eliminate purchases from suppliers who do not meet its requirements. McDonald’s will also evaluate its progress in annual reports.
McDonald’s Banik-Rake explains that this sustainable sourcing policy was driven by the suppliers themselves. She said key suppliers such as Cargill had already made anti-deforestation commitments: “The question that was coming back to us was, ‘As suppliers, we have stronger commitments than you do as a company, so why don’t you make the same commitment?’ I couldn’t argue with that logic, right?”
Another driver was the Soya Moratorium, signed in 2006 and set to expire next year, in which McDonald’s and other corporations refused to buy poultry fed on soy linked to the deforestation of Brazilian rainforests.
The goal of reducing deforestation, however, presents major challenges. Take palm oil, for example, which is a huge contributor to deforestation and which McDonald’s has committed to sourcing sustainably. The availability of sustainably sourced palm oil is limited today, and alternatives could result in even more deforestation, making it hard to find a quick fix.
In a palm oil scorecard released by the Union of Concerned Scientists earlier this month, McDonald’s fared poorly on its palm oil deforestation record, but the company, like other major brands, recognized global gaps in sustainable sourcing, said Lael Goodman, the author of the report.
The biggest challenge in implementing a zero-deforestation policy is that companies will have to ensure that their promises are met right down at the plantation level, Goodman said.
While McDonald’s said that its policy is effective immediately, their actual targets for zero-deforestation may be five to 15 years away. This is in line with the New York declaration on forests that it signed at the United Nation’s climate summit in September, along with other global corporations, to end deforestation due to agricultural commodities by 2020 and the loss of natural forests by 2030.
Critics of the New York declaration called the 2030 target for ending deforestation and 2020 target for agricultural commodities unambitious, but others said it was worth applauding as a step in the right direction.
McDonald’s plans to release specific targets for when it will stop buying various commodities from suppliers contributing to deforestation later this year.
By: The Guardian