McDonald's is embarking on a new climate strategy. An ambitious strategy that has been approved by an internationally recognised scientific initiative: The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). This guarantees that the measures taken by the company are in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, i.e. limiting the rise in global temperature to below 2° Celsius by the end of the century.
To do this, the food chain plans to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for its restaurants and offices by 36% by the year 2030, based on 2015 figures, by including its franchises and suppliers. It is also committed to reducing the intensity of its emissions (or the amount of CO² emitted per metric ton from food and packaging) throughout its supply chain by 31% in 2030, also based on 2015 levels.
Livestock, agriculture and waste at the forefront
To achieve this goal, McDonald's will focus on the largest areas of its carbon footprint, namely cattle production, restaurant energy supply, packaging and waste. These areas account for nearly 65% of the group's greenhouse gas emissions. “To meet this goal, we will source our food responsibly, promote renewable energy and use it efficiently, and reduce waste and increase recycling,” said McDonald’s Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook.
To reduce the energy consumption in its buildings, the group plans to use LED lighting and more energy efficient kitchen equipment. Where food is concerned, recycling and sustainable packaging will be preferred. Finally, McDonald's will support and encourage all its suppliers to engage in sustainable agriculture, a mode of production that allows one to use less pesticides and better cattle breeding techniques.
As a consequence, the greenhouse gases avoided are estimated to be 150 million tons. That's the equivalent of taking 32 million cars off the road for a whole year or planting 3.8 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years.
A role model for company climate commitments
The announcement was hailed by several NGOs, such as World Wildlife Fund (WFF), which is one of the founding members of the Science Based Targets initiative, the Carbon Disclosure Project and the United Nations Global Compact. "Their announcement matters because it commits one of the world’s biggest companies to deliver, with the full breadth of their food chain system, significant emissions reductions based on science. It also coincides with their decision to join the We Are Still In coalition with thousands of other companies across the US,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF in the United States.
"Environmental progress doesn't just happen, it takes bold leadership from all of us. As one of the best-known brands on the planet, McDonald's is well positioned to lead, and its ambitious new climate target will inspire innovation, collaboration, and most importantly critical greenhouse gas reductions across the company's global operations and supply chain," said Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund, an American NGO.
"With its 36,000 restaurants around the world, the reputation of a company like McDonald's serves as a great model for the Science Based Targets initiative. This information was picked up by non-specialised media who had previously never mentioned this initiative, and the fact that this big meat buyer is citing beef production as one of its main sources of GHG emissions helps raise awareness about the environmental impact of meat consumption ", said Nicolas Redon, Climate Finance Program Manager, Novethic.
To date, 362 companies around the world have engaged in the Science-Based Targets initiative. But only 93 of them have seen their strategy implemented. Among them are French companies Kering and Danone.
Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud
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