McDonald’s to Take Bite Out of Beef Emissions

Energy is “the big kahuna,” for McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest restaurant chain, said its sustainability vice president, Bob Langert. With the fast-food restaurant’s global annual energy bill estimated at $2 billion, it’s looking at all sorts of ways to trim that check. In the U.S. for example, McDonald’s is putting up LED lighting in its stores that could save approximately $2 million operationally, he said.

Setting standards for sustainable beef is also a priority for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company. “If there’s one area we want to put our cards on the table, it’s with beef,” Langert said. Livestock is a main part of McDonald’s supply chain, which accounts for about two-thirds of its carbon footprint. A report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in 2006 found that the raising of animals for food accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gases globally.

Q: How does McDonald’s retain consistency in its practices globally?

A: We’re really big on what we call “freedom within a framework.” Over 80 percent of our restaurants are owned by independent businesses. We have 4,600 people in charge of McDonald’s that are individual entrepreneurs. We have our sustainability framework but it’s not a cookie cutter approach, not prescriptive, not in our culture. Different things are important in different cultures. Water is extraordinarily important for Australia. For Japan, it’s the use of land and resources. It’s what the company believes in at the top level, then we ask our leadership to set action plans tailored to their markets.

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