McDonald’s, Mc Eco-Friendly?

McDonald’s announced today that it plans to convert its UK fleet of 155 trucks to run on biofuel made from recycled vegetable fat from 900 restaurants. This will, they claim, save 1,650 tonnes of carbon per year.

McDonald’s has launched a raft of apparently ethical and environmentally friendly initiatives in recent months. They now sell Rainforest Alliance Coffees, and recently announced a joint scheme with Friends of the Earth to eliminate polystyrene from their restaurants.

Credit where credit’s due, McDonalds does now seem to be pursuing a far more ethical policy than it has done in the past. However, their motives are questionable. These recent environmentally aware projects follow a gruelling few years for McDonalds; books such as Fast Food Nation and Films like Supersize Me have seriously damaged its reputation. At the same time, it has been loosing business to companies perceived as healthier, such as Subway. These green initiatives probably have more to do with restoring confidence in the Golden Arches’ brand than pure altruism.

Their motives wouldn’t, in the end, matter very much, if it were not for the case that some of the initiatives smack of tokenism and appear to be more about the publicity than the environmental policy itself. The use of biofuels is one of these. McDonald’s is a global corporation and this will barely dent its carbon footprint. In any case Environmental Graffiti and the community at large believe that the environmental friendliness of biofuels is questionable, maybe our Big Mac will cost more!

Has McDonald’s addressed all of the issues that made it an environmental bogeyman for so long, such as the use of beef from cows grazed on deforested land in South America? The simple answer is “no.” Our advise for the corporation is, if McDonald’s wants us to take it seriously, it should be far more transparent about the sourcing of its products and set definite goals to reduce its carbon emissions.