Not lovin' it: This is how bad McDonald's is for the environment

Oak Brook, Illinois - In a revelation that shouldn't surprise anyone, given that beef is the food that does the most climate damage, McDonald's menu items and supply chain are still terrible for the environment, even though the company claims to be improving.

A McDonald's in Los Angeles next to a disused pump jack...Both are climate offenders.
A McDonald's in Los Angeles next to a disused pump jack...Both are climate offenders.  © IMAGO / UIG

McDonald's is a bigger climate offender than the whole country of Norway, or the emissions-heavy cement industry.

"When you eat one of our world-famous burgers, you’re joining a movement toward a more sustainable future," the fast food chain claims in its sustainability report.

But something just doesn't add up here, and Bloomberg writer Ben Elgin's special report breaks down how McDonald's current efforts towards reducing the climate impact of its burgers doesn't require real change.

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One example stands out to underline the lack of action. McDonald's claims it uses 30% sustainably sourced beef in its burgers in Canada, but it turns out that the organization that decides which beef is sustainable – which McDonald's itself helped create – doesn't even require actual emissions reductions or changes.

Instead, farmers just need to "be aware" of other farming practices for their beef to count as sustainable.

This sets the tone for the other efforts McDonald's touts as taking climate action, like the pittance the company agreed to spend on projects for improving land-management practices, which amounted to paying less than $1 million annually, compared to raking in a massive profit of $4.7 billion in 2020.

McDonald's committed itself to reaching net zero by 2050. Shady practices like this put even that distinctly unambitious goal in doubt.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / Dean Pictures, IMAGO / Ritzau Scanpix

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