American and increasingly global fast food chain McDonald's Corp is taking steps to end deforestation caused by its supply chain, focusing on beef, coffee, palm oil, poultry and packaging. The company promised on Tuesday not to buy from suppliers that clear primary forest and other areas with high conservation value, as well as peat marshes.
The food giant also said human rights must be observed and conflicts over land use resolved through a fair and transparent process.
Scientific advocacy groups welcomed the pledge, saying it was the first by a global fast food chain covering its whole supply chain and would push the industry to set tough new environmental standards.
The multinational company said it would begin the development of specific time-bound targets for the raw materials it sources this year and would help suppliers comply with the program.
"Making this pledge is the right thing to do for our company, the planet and the communities in which our supply chain operates," said Francesca DeBiase, senior vice president of McDonald's worldwide supply chain and sustainability.
Like many other international food, cosmetics and commodity giants, the company has come under pressure from activists to make its business greener and more socially sustainable.
"The sheer scale of McDonald's commitment includes significant potential for change, pushing the industry to implement new environmental standards across the board and ultimately reducing climate emissions," said analyst Lael Goodman. "However, the commitment is still a work in progress."
David McLaughlin, the World Wildlife Fund's vice president of sustainable food, said success would require the expansion of monitoring and compliance efforts by McDonald's and its suppliers.
"We hope that this commitment will inspire other companies to take action," he added.
McDonald's said it had been addressing deforestation since 1989 when it stopped sourcing beef from the Amazon rainforest.
The company could use some good PR lately as sales of their signature fast food are down across the board. Consumers are increasingly preferring healthier options and McDonald's has made some strategic errors lately by offering too many menu items that confuse customers.