The other day I posted about McDonalds' decision to phase out gestational crates for pigs. At the time I argued that McDonalds was far from a force for good, and yet its sheer size meant that when it did take steps in the right direction, those steps have far reaching implications.
On packaging, too, McDonalds has done more than many to improve its supply chain, as documented in a new report from the Dogwood Alliance on how the fast food industry can move toward greener packaging:
The report highlights key leaders who stepped out from the pack to take initiative on the eight key attributes. For example, Starbucks has committed to reducing the overall use of packaging and pushed the FDA to increase the maximum allowable recycled content in food grade packaging. Another great example of leadership came from McDonald’s, who adopted an industry leading environmental packaging policy that included both continued progress on the increased use of recycled fiber but also took a comprehensive approach to its non-recycled paper packaging. That commitment eliminates fiber coming from the conversion of natural forests to plantations and gives a clear preference to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper, the only paper certification broadly endorsed by the environmental community. These initiatives involved multiple stakeholders, from packaging suppliers to environmental organizations, and set the new standard for excellence.
Meanwhile Kentucky Fried Chicken's continued support of forest destruction is highlighted as a clear example of how not to be a leader. (Disclosure: I worked on the branding for the Kentucky Fried Forests campaign.)
As with any such campaign, I am sure there will be purists who argue—like solar on an unwalkable subdivision—that McDonalds using recycled paper is nothing but lipstick on a pig. But brand activism requires calling out specific shortcomings, mapping a path to overcoming those shortcomings, and then praising those who make the right moves. The resulting successes are a significant step forward for forest protection, even if they aren't likely to tackle the larger structural problems in our food system.
Luckily next week sees the launch of Occupy Our Food Supply, which will look at some of the more systemic issues we face. Somehow I suspect that high recycled content napkins will not be enough to save old Ronald McDonald from criticism...