Wendy's makes a big climate action commitment

The burger giant says it will reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 47% by 2030.
Wendy’s commitment is consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5°C. / Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Wendy’s has made a major commitment to reduce its environmental impact.

In 2021, the chain said it would develop and validate a science-based target for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by the end of 2023. Today, Wendy's has officially set and validated such a target—saying it will reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 47% by 2030.

Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions are those directly associated with a company, such as emissions connected to company vehicles or facilities. Scope 2 and 3 are indirect, such as emissions associated with goods, services or utilities the company purchases. 

“In a nutshell, it’s a commitment to benchmark, track and meaningfully reduce our overall Scope 1 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions across our company operations, within our franchise system and throughout our supply chain,” said Wendy's Chief Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer Liliana Esposito.

Setting the goal

Developing this commitment was an involved process, spanning multiple years, Esposito said.

It started with analyzing the company’s total emissions footprint. Then, with the help of the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), Wendy’s determined how much it would need to reduce its emissions to minimize its impact on climate change.

“So, first, kind of get our arms around what those emissions look like and, then, align with the Science Based Targets’ Initiative and their methodology, which is essentially the reduction level of those emissions that would be necessary to, you know, really do our fair share,” Esposito said.

Wendy’s Scope 1 and 2 commitments are consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5°C, with its Scope 3 goals aligned to SBTi’s well below 2°C criteria and according to a statement, the chain estimates that achieving its goal would be equivalent to removing more than 1.5 million gas-powered vehicles from the road in a year.

Reducing emissions

Wendy’s is now actively working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout its entire system, said Esposito.

“I think the science on climate is clear. And there are negative impacts that are happening and I think we all, whether we are in the restaurant business or otherwise, have an obligation to look at the impact we’re having, determine from a very scientific perspective what will be necessary to minimize that impact,” she said. “And then put the reduction strategies in place that will help get to that target ultimately.”

The chain is focusing on two major aspects—purchased goods and franchised restaurants—and the strategy for franchised restaurants and company-owned units will be similar.

Its first target? Energy efficiency.

“And that’s good news for a restaurant because if you’re using less energy, less electricity, it’s going to cost you less," Esposito said. "And so, there’s a number of efficiency related projects related to equipment, related to lighting, our overall new restaurant design, which we call the Global Next Gen.”

The Global Next Gen design is about 10% more energy efficient than Wendy’s traditional restaurant format, according to Esposito.  

The chain is also developing a renewable electricity procurement strategy. This begins with its participation in Duke Energy Florida’s Clean Energy Connection program, which supplies certain company restaurants with solar energy.

Its commitment will also require teaming up with suppliers to support their emission reduction efforts. Beef, pork and chicken in Wendy's supply chain contribute a "substantial amount" to the chain's overall carbon footprint, Esposito said.

Despite the work involved, action on the climate is something consumers are now seeking out. Esposito said she has seen increased demand for environmental transparency.

“I think that consumers overall are increasingly aware of and certainly concerned about what the ultimate impacts of climate change may be and understanding [of] the companies that they do business with,” she said. “And I think that it just makes a customer feel better about the brands that they choose to associate with if they know that those brands and those companies are playing their part. We certainly believe that we are.”

UPDATE: This story has been corrected to change "Wendy’s Scope 1 and 2 commitments are consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5°C, with its Scope 3 goals aligned to SBTi’s well below 2°C criteria" 

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