The fast food industry knows it’s killing the planet’s forests, but it’s not doing much about it. Because the industry relies on mass-produced beef and palm oil to make everything from burgers to doughnuts, it is quite happy to continue driving tropical deforestation in order to source those ingredients and meet the insatiable demands of global customers.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) assessed major fast food companies’ efforts to address deforestation due to palm oil. UCS found that, out of the 10 companies examined, “only four had palm oil commitments, and of those only two, McDonald’s and Subway, had strong enough policies to receive scores.”
McDonald’s overall score was rated as “little commitment,” while Subway’s was marginally better with “some commitment.” The other companies, which include Starbucks, DQ, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, and the Yum! Group (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), scored “no commitment.”
One positive step that Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s have made is committing to buy all palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified sources by 2020. While that may sound good, the reality is that the RSPO’s standards for palm oil certification have fallen way short of what’s really needed. Having that RSPO certification doesn’t mean as much as it should, as there are records of deforestation taking place even in RSPO-protected areas.
Many environmental organizations have been unhappy with the RSPO’s work in palm-oil producing countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which is why alternative certifying bodies like the Rainforest Alliance have teamed up with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) to create a stricter set of criteria for certifying palm oil production in tropical countries.
Unfortunately, the fast food industry is unlikely to clean up its act unless consumers demand it – something that’s inconvenient to think about when the craving for a Dunkin’ donut or a Big Mac sets in. Regardless, the UCS asks consumers to weigh in and tell these companies that ethical sourcing does matter, both to people and the environment: “Take a second to send these companies a message letting them know that you do not want a side of forests with your meal.”
Fill out this call for action, asking companies to use deforestation-free palm oil, on the UCS site