McDonald’s, one of the planet’s most recognizable companies, has become the first restaurant chain in the world to set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target approved by the Science Based Targets initiative — reducing emissions by 36% at all McDonald’s restaurants and offices by 2030 from a 2015 baseline.
On Tuesday, McDonald’s revealed that not only would it commit to its new emissions reduction target but that it also intended to commit to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across its supply chain by 2030, again on a 2015 baseline, and again approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
The targets are hoped to prevent 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year, or planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years.
“To create a better future for our planet, we must all get involved. McDonald’s is doing its part by setting this ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the challenge of global climate change,” said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s President and CEO, who announced the plan in a video released by the company. “To meet this goal, we will source our food responsibly, promote renewable energy and use it efficiently, and reduce waste and increase recycling.”
“To reach its target, McDonald’s will work across its supply chain, offices and restaurants to be more innovative and efficient through improvements such as LED lighting, energy efficient kitchen equipment, sustainable packaging, restaurant recycling, and by elevating and supporting sustainable agriculture practices,” McDonald’s explained in its announcement. “In collaboration with thousands of franchisees, suppliers and producers, McDonald’s will prioritize action on the largest segments of its carbon footprint: beef production, restaurant energy usage and sourcing, packaging and waste.” McDonald’s self-proclaimed “largest segments of its carbon footprint” adds up to approximately 64% of the restaurant chain’s global emissions, giving it a tremendous opportunity to significant cut down on its emissions.
This is by no means McDonald’s first foray into increasing its sustainability, but follows on from several big-ticket announcements and progress made over the past few years. The company already has existing programs focused on forests, agriculture, and energy efficiency, and will further its transparency by expanding its measurement systems and annually communicate its progress, challenges, and milestones. In 2014, McDonald’s published an Energy and Climate Position Statement which established the company’s views on collaborative action tackling climate change, and in 2015 the company developed a Commitment on Forests that sought to address the impact of its supply chain on deforestation.
“McDonald’s footprint touches all parts of the world. 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 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the United States. “While private-sector actions can’t entirely solve the climate crisis facing our planet, significant announcements like these, and coalitions like these working on climate together, create momentum and movement toward the scale of solutions that we ultimately need.”
Turning to the Science Based Targets initiative is simply the company’s next step and an attempt to use its Scale for Good — as outlined here. The initiative is a joint initiative set up in 2014 by CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). It seeks to champion science-based targets by advising companies on their targets.
“McDonald’s is delivering a strong statement by becoming the first restaurant company to set a science-based greenhouse gas emissions target. McDonald’s leaders understand that you don’t have to grow emissions to grow as a company,” said Andrew Steer, President & CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the Science Based Targets initiative partners. “By working with suppliers to design and scale more sustainable farming practices and reducing waste, McDonald’s will chart a path that is better for its franchise, customers and the environment. WRI urges McDonald’s to look for additional opportunities to align their business model and value chain with the realities of a resource-constrained world. We stand ready to support the company in pursuing strategies that lead to healthier consumers and a more sustainable planet.”
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