McDonald’s Promises Net-Zero Emissions By 2050 With Plant-Based Approach
McDonald’s just announced plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in a worldwide push to focus on sustainability in the company’s supply chain. The fast-food giant partnered with the nonprofit Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to redesign its current sustainability goals, planning to lower its total greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2030. The company announced that it would take measures in its energy and food supply sectors, working to reduce carbon emissions and waste.
With nearly 80 percent of the fast-food chain’s emissions originating from its supply chain, the company will be required to enhance its plant-based offerings. The company’s food supply – specifically its beef, chicken, dairy, and other protein use – will be one of McDonald’s most significant hurdles in completing its sustainability goal.
“We believe we have both a privilege and a responsibility to help lead on issues that matter most in communities – and there is no issue more urgent globally and of impact locally than protecting our planet for generations to come,” McDonald's President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski said. “By committing to net zero through the SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, we are helping every community we serve to mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt for the future.”
By announcing these sustainability measures, McDonald’s is leading the fast-food industry into new territory for sustainability standards. The company’s exact plans currently remain unclear, but over recent years, McDonald’s initiated several shifts towards sustainability and plant-based offerings.
"We're trying to send a signal to our partners, to our investors, to our suppliers, to other brands in the global community, to policymakers, that we share that vision for 2050," McDonald's Chief Sustainability Officer Jenny McColloch told Reuters in an interview.
The announcement comes ahead of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that plans to address the worsening climate crisis and its direct contributors – specifically animal agriculture. Following the UN’s “code red” concerning the climate crisis, companies worldwide felt the pressure to adopt sustainable policies that moved away from environmentally harmful animal agriculture. McDonald’s – as one of the largest commercial beef purchasers and distributors in the world – aims to curb its environmental damages.
“[McDonald's'] decision to commit to net-zero future matters because it will deliver results at scale and build momentum ahead of COP26 where we need more companies, governments, and other actors to do the same,” President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Carter Roberts said. “By leveraging the latest science in accounting for agricultural emissions, this commitment paves a path for other large food companies to follow. No single company can solve the climate crisis. But commitments like this that raise ambition and push forward critical areas of climate science can create lasting results.”
Alongside the worldwide commitment, regional McDonald’s companies also began launching programs to introduce plant-based foods in an attempt to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The company announced that its United Kingdom and Ireland locations will aim to become market leaders for the vegan fast food industry by 2025. The region plans to reach net-zero by 2040, a decade earlier than the global goal.
Through its Plan for Change campaign, the company will begin introducing plant-based foods across its regional menus and begin testing net-zero locations. The first net-zero location will open this year in Shropshire. The new store will feature the new vegan McPlant Burger and will act as the company’s blueprint for its sustainable future.
“This new Plan for Change is not just our sustainability strategy, it’s our business priority,” McDonald’s UK & Ireland Chief Executive Paul Pomroy said. “That means it isn’t a plan for one change, but for many – changes that together, with 1,400 restaurants, over 130,000 people, 23,000 British and Irish farmers, and 4 million customers visiting every day, really will add up.”
Earlier this year, McDonald’s partnered with Beyond Meat to begin introducing plant-based protein to its menus globally. The three-year partnership will aim to develop the McPlant burger and subsequent vegan menu. The first McPlant burger debuted in select locations across Europe but is expected to eventually reach the United States.
“We are proud to enter into this strategic global agreement with McDonald’s, an exciting milestone for Beyond Meat, and look forward to serving McDonald’s as they bring expanded choice to menus globally,” Beyond Meat Founder and CEO Ethan Brown said in February. “We will combine the power of Beyond Meat’s rapid and relentless approach to innovation with the strength of McDonald’s global brand to introduce craveable, new plant-based menu items that consumers will love.”