Skip to main content

How McDonald's aims to serve up deforestation-free packaging

You've heard about sustainable beef, but the fast food giant is focusing its European supply chain sustainability efforts on packaging.

By the end of next year, McDonald's has pledged that all of its European wood-fiber packaging — paper or card-based products such as burger boxes or coffee cups — will come from recycled material or sustainably managed forests.

The company recently took a major step towards achieving this goal, announcing that all of its centrally sourced packaging in Europe is now chain-of-custody certified, with all wood fiber from either recycled sources or sustainably managed forests.

This covers all the burger cartons, cups, bags, wraps, napkins and straw wrappers used in McDonald's restaurants across Europe, although it does not yet include locally sourced packaging products such as sugar sticks, salt and pepper sachets, ice cream cone wraps and donut cases.

McDonald's currently uses about 170,000 tonnes of wood fiber every year in its European packaging, and has identified wood fiber as a "priority raw material" alongside beef, coffee, fish and palm oil.

It pledged to source all of its wood fiber from certified sources by 2020, as part of a wider commitment, unveiled earlier this year, to end deforestation across its supply chain.

Rolf Huwyler, senior manager of environment and CSR at McDonald's, spoke to BusinessGreen about the firm's efforts to green its supply chain, tackle deforestation and boost its restaurant recycling rates.

Madeleine Cuff: How significant is this milestone for McDonald's, in terms of the progress towards your goal of sourcing 100 percent sustainable packaging in Europe?

Rolf Huwyler: This milestone is very significant to us as it concerns large volumes of fiber now coming entirely from certified recycled or virgin sources.

Cuff: What have been the biggest challenges to certification of your wood fiber supply chain? What advice would you have for other companies embarking on a similar process?

Huwyler: The biggest challenge was probably how to handle many different suppliers involved across many markets. We worked very closely with all suppliers, providing support and sharing knowledge to develop best practice. The advice I would give to others would be to ensure you have a strong and clear strategy so all partners involved always know where you are heading. This was one of the most important elements of the journey for us.

Cuff: You say you will provide "credible evidence" to your customers that the packaging products you use come from well-managed forests. What form will this evidence take and how will you communicate it with customers?

Huwyler: The centrally sourced wood fiber based packaging is now certified to one of two globally recognized standards for responsible forest management: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard or a Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) endorsed national standard. The certification status of our suppliers is monitored regularly.

We have committed to end deforestation across the entire McDonald's raw materials supply chain by 2030.

We are currently exploring the options of how we want to communicate this with our customers, which includes communication on our packaging.

Cuff: Alongside your goal to use sustainable packaging, you also have set targets for minimizing waste and increasing your recycling rate. How do you plan to achieve this?

Huwyler: Our biggest European markets have all set road maps to increase the percentage of waste that is recycled in their restaurants. In the kitchen area, we widely recycle waste including used frying oil, corrugated PE foil and organic waste. Depending on national recycling schemes, many restaurants are also separating customer waste for recycling or are currently testing this.

Cuff: Beyond certifying the source of wood fibers, what else can companies do to tackle deforestation?

Huwyler: I believe it's all about having a clear goal and strategies and then taking steps together with all partners concerned. We will collaborate with our suppliers as well as government, civil society and industry to practically address deforestation.

Through our global Commitment on Deforestation and our support of the New York Declaration on Forests, we have committed to end deforestation across the entire McDonald's raw materials supply chain by 2030, and we will set time-bound deforestation-free targets for priority products by the end of this year.

We are also collaborating with World Wildlife Fund as the first restaurant business to participate in WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network, whose goal is to eliminate illegal logging and transform the global marketplace to save the world's valuable and threatened forests by working with companies around the world that are committed to responsible production and sourcing of forest products.

Cuff: What plans do you have for making your packaging more sustainable in the future? For example, do you have any plans to extend your European sustainable packaging strategy worldwide?

Huwyler: Yes, McDonald's has a Global Fiber Sourcing Policy in place, with an aspirational goal to source 100 percent of fiber based packaging from certified or recycled sources by 2020.

This story first appeared on:


More on this topic