McDonald’s on Tuesday vowed to work with its suppliers and franchisees to reduce its restaurants’ greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years, the latest effort by the burger giant to burnish its image.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said it would reduce emissions in restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 to address climate change.
The company also committed to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity across its supply chain by that same year. The Science Based Targets initiative, a coalition of environmental groups that work to convince businesses to cut their emissions, has approved the targets.
McDonald’s said it expects to prevent 150 million metric tons of gases from being released into the atmosphere by 2030, equal to taking 32 million cars off the road or planting 3.8 billion trees.
“McDonald’s is doing its part by setting this ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the challenge of global climate change,” CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a statement. “To meet this goal, we will source our food responsibly, promote renewable energy and use it efficiently, and reduce waste and increase recycling.”
McDonald’s has been on a quest to improve its image in recent years amid lost market share in its key U.S. market. The company has removed artificial ingredients from its chicken, vowed to switch to cage-free eggs, set beef supply sustainability targets and established a plan to reduce the calorie count in its Happy Meals, among other things.
Many of these efforts have yielded results. Sales of Chicken McNuggets spiked after the chain removed artificial preservatives in 2016, for instance. And the agreement to reduce calories in the kids meals led to its first marketing agreement with Disney in more than a decade.
To reach its target for reduced emissions, McDonald’s said it would work across its supply chain and its system to be more energy efficient, using LED lighting, efficient kitchen equipment, sustainable packaging, recycling and supporting sustainable agricultural practices.
The company said it would prioritize moves with the largest segments of its carbon footprint, including beef production, restaurant energy use, packaging and waste. These segments combined account for nearly two-thirds of the company’s emissions.
McDonald’s said it would communicate annually about its progress.
“As one of the best-known brands on the planet, McDonald’s is well-positioned to lead, and its ambitious new climate target will inspire innovation, collaboration, and most importantly critical greenhouse gas reductions across the company’s global operations and supply chain,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.
McDonald’s efforts on the supply chain and its equipment demands could force suppliers and vendors to change their own efforts, given the company’s sheer size and scale—something that could end up having a broad impact throughout the restaurant industry.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s vowed to phase out foam cups amid environmental concerns. The company released a climate position statement in 2014, establishing a view on climate change, and in 2015 committed to reducing deforestation in its supply chain.
McDonald’s is the first restaurant company to set science-based emissions targets.
“McDonald’s footprint touches all parts of the world,” said Carter Roberts, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. “Their announcement matters because it commits one of the world’s biggest companies to deliver, with the full breadth of their food chain system, significant mission reductions based on science.”