Building Environmental Restaurants the Yum Brands Way

(3BL/JustMeans) The company that owns the fast food chains Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut takes green building seriously. Yum Brands is a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and has built over 30 LEED certified buildings in nine countries. The company’s LEED certification total was the second highest among restaurateurs in 2015.

Yum Brands has its own green building standard called Blueline, which is named after the earth’s blue atmosphere that can be seen from space. Blue is viewed as a roadmap to LEED certification, and is based on the company’s more than a decade of experience with green building. The focus of Blueline is on energy savings, water conservation, sensible materials and healthy environments for people. Over 5,600 restaurants include solutions that are part of Blueline, according to the company’s latest CSR report. 

At the end of 2015, markets representing 85 percent of the company’s new corporate restaurant construction had integrated Blueline approaches and technologies to obtain LEED certification. The goal is for 100 percent of its new corporate restaurant buildings to integrate Blueline approaches and technologies. 

Energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction remain key focuses

Restaurants are very energy-intensive, so becoming more energy efficient is an important environmental goal. Yum Brands surpassed its 2015 energy reduction goal of 15 percent with a combined savings of 17 percent, resulting in the avoidance of 1.6 million tons of carbon. That is equivalent to the annual output from 300,000 homes. Energy conservation projects implemented in the company’s markets globally reduced energy consumption by 60,031 megawatt hours (MWh) in 2015. 

During Yum Brands’ decade long efforts to reduce water use, it has implemented projects resulting in saving over 800 million gallons of water globally. That is enough water to supply the state of Massachusetts for one day in 2005, the year the company began to start reducing water. There are a number of ways that its restaurants reduce water use, including installing high efficiency irrigation systems, low flow hand sinks and optimized restroom fixtures. 

Yum Brands remains committed to the waste principles of reduce, reuse and recycle with programs to divert waste from landfill, repurposing used cooking oil and recycling corrugated cardboard. The goal is to divert at least 50 percent of its back-of-the-house operational waste annually, calculated by weight, by 2020.

Sustainable paper and palm oil sourcing policies 

Yum Brands has established sustainable paper-based packaging sourcing policies. The policy includes giving preference to suppliers who have certification by a third party, with preference given to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard. The company accepts certifications from other national certifications endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). 

Yum Brands states that it will not knowingly buy paper-based packaging products made with fiber from illegal sources or sources that come from the following:

  • Wood harvested from forests that have been converted to plantations or non-forest use.
  • Wood from high conservation value (HCV) forests, unless they are credibly certified.
  • Wood where the forest source and species are unknown.
  • Wood harvested in a way that violates human rights.
  • Wood harvested that violates local or international laws. 

Yum Brands has a goal of phasing out palm oil as a cooking oil in its restaurants by 2017. Until it phases out palm oil, the company is committed to only sourcing from suppliers who comply with certain environmental conditions, including not developing in HCV areas, high carbon stock (HCS) forests or peatlands. Yum Brands also requires that the palm oil it buys be traceable to the extraction mill. Preference is given to suppliers certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Photo: Flickr/Mike Mozart