McDonald's to Source Sustainable Palm Oil by 2015

McDonald's has released their 2010 corporate responsibility report, and among their priorities is the goal to shift their palm oil supply to sustainable palm oil by 2015.  The McDonald's Corporation plans to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2011 and make the shift gradually over the next four years.

About Palm Oil
Palm Oil is primarily cultivated in Indonesia and Malaysia, though there are also palm oil plantations in tropical regions of Africa and South America.  According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, palm oil production has increased 43% since 1990, causing substantial deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia and threatening the wildlife of these countries' rainforests.  In an effort to create global sustainability standards for palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil works with the plantations that produce palm oil, the manufacturers who purchase palm oil, and conservation groups that have an interest in palm oil's impact.

Palm oil is present in many of the foods sold at McDonald's, especially breakfast and dessert items.  According to McDonald's USA  Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items, published in 2007, the following McDonald's menu items all contain palm oil: apple pie, biscuit, cinnamon melt, griddle cakes, hot fudge topping, ice cream cone, margarine, McSkillet Burrito, oatmeal raisin cookie, Oreo McFlurry and sugar cookie.

McDonald's Larger Sustainability Efforts
McDonald's awareness of sustainable palm oil comes on the tail of commitments from other large corporations such as General Mills, Kellogg, Nestle and Unilever, who have all set similar time-lines for their shift to sustainable palm oil.  The McDonald's corporate responsibility report also includes goals for improving the sustainability of their beef and poultry supply, as well as goals for creating more sustainable packaging.

The 2010 corporate responsibility report indicates a step toward sustainability, but it is not the first step McDonald's has taken.  Fueled by pressure from Greenpeace, in 2006 McDonald's stopped purchasing chickens fed on soya, a crop that was promoting deforestation in South America.  In 2007, the corporation joined the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative.  But some organizations aren't ready to praise McDonald's for their corporate responsibility just yet.  On March 2, 2011, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) unveiled a chicken statue in Raleigh, North Carolina, that protests McDonald's sourcing of chickens that are slaughtered using inhumane methods.  McDonald's has repeatedly been accused of  “greenwashing,” and may need to produce some more hard evidence to convince skeptics that their sustainability goals are legitimate.

Photo Credit:  chunyalim