KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Take Steps to Reduce Deforestation

Statement by Lael Goodman

Published Apr 2, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 2, 2015) – Yum! Brands, the second largest fast food chain in America, today released a commitment to source deforestation and peat-free palm oil. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) applauds Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, for being the biggest global fast food company to commit to sourcing better palm oil, but notes that the commitment falls short of perfect.

Palm oil is a common ingredient in products ranging from face cream to fast foods. As demand for palm oil increases, so too does deforestation. Harmful climate emissions are released when land is deforested to make way for oil palm plantations. In total, about ten percent of all global warming emissions result from tropical deforestation.

Below is a statement from Lael Goodman, an analyst with UCS's Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative.

“Yum! Brands seems to have good intentions with this commitment, which will require the company to buy palm oil exclusively for cooking purposes that protects all forests and peatlands, swampy areas of carbon-rich soil. An upshot of the commitment is that it includes all cooking oil used in Yum! Brands' restaurants across the globe.

“The problem is that palm oil is also a common ingredient in some the company's baked goods and sauces—products that are prepared by a third-party vendor—and are not covered under the commitment. This is where the commitment loses steam.

“Fast forward to January 2018, when the commitment goes into effect. If I'm eating a KFC meal including the Colonel's Original Recipe fried chicken with a biscuit and gravy, Yum! Brands' failure to expand their commitment to all palm oil uses means my finger lickin' good chicken isn't linked to deforestation, but my biscuit and gravy does not come with the same assurances.

“Just yesterday, UCS released the 2015 Scorecard that scored the palm oil sourcing commitments of 40 companies including Yum! Brands. The company scored a zero as of yesterday, but today's announcement will surely raise their score somewhat.

“However, if Yum! Brands wants to be an environmental leader amongst fast food giants, the company should to extend the commitment to all forms of palm oil and bulk up its transparency efforts. Such transparency efforts include reporting the quantities of palm oil used and on the commitment's implementation.”

For more information about Yum! Brands commitment, check out Goodman's blog post on UCS's The Equation.