McDonald’s Pledges to Eliminate Deforestation from Supply Chain

Pledge Has Much Potential, but Still Work in Progress

Published Apr 21, 2015

WASHINGTON (April 21, 2015)—McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food chain, pledges to eliminate deforestation from its global supply chains, making it the first global fast food chain to do so. The announcement goes well beyond the deforestation-free palm oil commitments other fast food companies have made. By aiming to eradicate deforestation from all commodities, McDonald’s is initially focusing on the sourcing of deforestation-free beef, fiber-based packaging, coffee, poultry and palm oil. McDonald’s pledge is great news for tropical forests, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) looks forward to working with the company to adopt strong individual commodity commitments.


“The sheer scale of McDonald’s commitment includes significant potential for change, pushing the industry to implement new environmental standards across the board and ultimately reducing climate emissions,” said Lael Goodman, analyst with UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative. “However, the commitment is still a work in progress. To force real change, McDonald’s must demonstrate real action in the form of strong individual commodity commitments and on the ground follow through.”


Today’s pledge indicates that the company will source deforestation-free commodities, but until McDonald’s releases the details of the individual commodity commitments, the effectiveness of its pledge cannot be determined. 


As the burger giant begins to write the deforestation-free palm oil commitment, it is essential that it address several key concerns about palm oil, including increasing the traceability of palm oils to sustainable lands. To remove deforestation from its supply chain, McDonald’s must also put earlier time-bound goals on all stages of the pledge, from those for individual commodity commitments to the company’s overall global supply chains.


“Today’s announcement is a promise of future action – and that’s a great first step. The Golden Arches have the potential to be a symbol of environmental sustainability by reducing deforestation. The key to achieving that promise are detailed plans on how it will eliminate deforestation from the supply chain,” said Goodman. 


UCS recently released its 2015 Palm Oil Scorecard and McDonald’s scored 24.4 out of 100 points, an increase of 3.3 point over their 2014 score. 


“McDonald’s announcement has the potential to create a ‘new normal,’ where fast food brands sourcing forest-produced commodities demand deforestation-free products,” said Goodman. “While the details of this commitment have yet to be seen, the company is sending a powerful signal that it wants to reduce its environmental footprint.”