Fast-Food Investors Press for Environmental Change

Money on a mission.

KT Hall

This January, Ceres and the FAIRR Initiative—which manages $6.5 trillion in investments—sent letters to six of the world’s biggest fast food companies, including KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chipotle. All told, the recipients manage 120,000 restaurants. 

The letters asked for targeted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and excessive water usage. "Fast-food giants deliver speedy meals, but they have been super slow in responding to their out-sized environmental footprints," stated Mindy Lubber of Ceres.

This comes at a time when gas-emitting businesses are facing pressure from the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, reduce emissions, and remove polluters from their supply chains, according to Ceres. Companies facing similar scrutiny include the oil and gas industry and automakers. 

Nearly 66 percent of the world's meat and livestock companies have no transparent solutions for reducing gas emissions, according to FAIRR, a network of 80 investors concerned about sustainability and ending factory farms. Livestock—which includes cattle raised for both dairy and beef consumption—account for almost 15 percent of all global greenhouse gasses, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. “To put this in perspective, if cows were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” stated Jeremy Coller, FAIRR’s Founder and CIO of Coller Capital.

FAIRR and Ceres's letters request innovative and long-term solutions with annual disclosure of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, time-bound targets to reduce emissions and improve water consumption, and climate scenario analyses, per the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).  

Ceres and FAIRR appear to be on the right track. For example, McDonald’s announced last year plans to reduce emissions by 2030. But Yum Brands (KFC) and Restaurant Brands International (Burger King) haven't yet responded, according to Eco-Business. More pressure and divestment campaigns from investor groups are likely, as these sorts of issues become a bigger priority for larger funds. --KT Hall