McDonald's: Sustainable Beef Coming by 2016 in Eco Initiative

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 06:43 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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McDonald’s, the nation’s biggest buyer of beef, has committed to begin purchasing sustainable beef in 2016 — but it’s unclear exactly what “sustainable beef” is.

The company made the official announcement on its website Tuesday, outlining other initiatives to be a responsible corporate citizen, such as purchasing Rainforest Alliance certified coffee.

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The company explained that shifting to sustainable beef won’t be easy.

“This sounds simple, but it’s actually a big challenge because there hasn’t been a universal definition of sustainable beef,” the website explained. “That’s why we joined forces with other stakeholders to build coalitions and influence industry-wide change.”

The McDonald’s website said a Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef includes the World Wildlife Fund, Cargill, JBS, and others, and will work to draft guiding principles and best practices for sustainable beef. Coming up with a definition for “sustainable beef” is a start.

GreenBiz has been working on a three-part, in-depth story that will run this week on the mammoth process of moving such a large organization into buying sustainable products.

Talking with Bob Langert, vice president of global sustainability, Greenbiz said McDonald's hasn’t committed to buying a specific quantity of sustainable beef in 2016 or set a goal of when 100 percent sustainability will be achieved in its beef purchases.

“Our vision is to buy verifiable, sustainable beef in the future for all of our beef,” Langert told GreenBiz in November. “We have achieved internal alignment and energy around that aspirational goal, which is a big task.”

GreenBiz said it could take as much as a decade to achieve a 100 percent goal and that McDonald’s execs would only say, “We will focus on increasing the annual amount each year.”

GreenBiz said the McDonald’s commitment to making sustainability an important issue within the company — not just on beef but many products — is “notable.”

“We’ve upped our game related to how we’re approaching corporate social responsibility and sustainability at McDonald’s,” Langert told GreenBiz. Setting a goal for beef purchases “fits into a big picture where senior leadership says we need to do more, take a bigger stake, be a bigger leader and connect with consumers more.”

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