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McDonalds to Buy Only Certified Palm Oil by 2015; Unveils Initiative for Beef, Coffee

McDonald’s has committed to source only palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil by 2015, the company has announced.

The goal is part of the Sustainable Land Management Commitment (SLMC), a new company initiative to require that all agricultural raw materials for food and packaging originate from sustainably managed land. Initially, the effort will focus on palm oil, beef, poultry, coffee and packaging, McDonald’s said.

In most of the categories, McDonald’s did not publish specific goals or target dates. It did say that it is working with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and select regional roundtables, to improve the sustainability of beef production. It is piloting a three-year beef farm study to evaluate the carbon emissions on 350 beef farms in the U.K. and Ireland.

McDonald’s has also joined the Sustainability Consortium, an organization aimed at implementing measureable progress on life-cycle sustainability.

For packaging, the company said it will focus primarily on wood fiber, the predominant material in McDonald’s packaging including sandwich wraps, fry boxes, takeout bags and trayliners.

The company said it has been working with packaging suppliers to ensure wood fiber comes from legal and acceptable sources, and will not knowingly purchase from suppliers that source otherwise. McDonald’s said it gives preference to third-party certified wood, especially that certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The five initial focus areas were identified after an analysis conducted in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“McDonald’s serves customers around the world, and we accept the responsibility that comes with our global presence,” said McDonald’s chief executive officer Jim Skinner. “We will continue to focus our energy on developing sustainable sourcing practices and broadening our menu choices.”

McDonalds’ says the effort will build on previous accomplishments such as its implementation of a supplier scorecard measuring waste, pollution and resource use. Last year the company implemented a software system for supplier data collection, and required suppliers of beef, poultry, pork, toys, potatoes and buns to provide data for the top nine markets.

The announcement has coincided with McDonalds’ publication of its 2010 corporate responsibility report, which says that the company has cut its energy intensity by five percent, from 1.76 kWh per transaction in 2008 to 1.68 kWh per transaction in 2009.

“As a decentralized system with the vast majority of our restaurants operated by independent business owners, we do not have a centralized database or uniform method for tracking energy usage. So gauging performance across our system continues to be a challenge,” the company said in the report.

McDonald’s said that in 2010 it made incremental improvements in data collection in major markets, but there is still a significant amount of market-to-market variation in the extent of energy data collected, as well as the method of collection.

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