McDonald’s pledges to report on opportunities, risks posed by switching to reusable packaging, including its impact related to single-use packaging and the environment; in response, As You Sow has withdrawn its shareholder proposal with McDonald’s

Sample article from our Sustainability & Social Responsibility

March 17, 2023 (press release) –

McDonald’s Corporation has pledged to evaluate and report on the opportunities and risks posed by switching to reusable packaging, including its impacts related to single-use plastic and other single-use packaging and the environment. In response, As You Sow has withdrawn its shareholder proposal with the company.

McDonald’s currently complies with a new French law requiring all on-site dining to utilize reusable packaging, yet has no public plans to expand the packaging to the United States. In light of new laws in the U.S. taxing corporations for single-use packaging to, in part, address the plastic pollution crisis, As You Sow filed the resolution to encourage McDonald’s to evaluate how the expansion of reusable packaging could benefit the company from reputational, financial, and environmental perspectives.

In dialogue between As You Sow and McDonald’s after filing, the company attested to its commitment to exploring reusable packaging as part of its broader commitments to more sustainable materials for packaging, toys and waste reduction, and shared its plans to publish a comprehensive study in early 2024. 

Following engagement with As You Sow, McDonald’s agreed to include in its report an assessment of what opportunities and risks full-scale reuse poses to the industry and the environment and how this is influenced by the System Change Scenario proposed in the groundbreaking Breaking the Plastic Wave report, whereby eight complementary interventions must be implemented to achieve an 80% cut in plastic pollution by 2040, including reducing growth in plastic use by at least 1/3. The report may include possible new actions and potential goal frameworks for McDonald’s on reusables.

“We commend McDonald’s for committing to the exploration of a more circular future for quick-service restaurant dining,” said Kelly McBee, circular economy senior coordinator at As You Sow. “We anticipate the report will demonstrate reusable packaging to be a critical component of sustainable operations and hope this action signals other quick-service restaurants to follow McDonald’s lead.”

In 2022, As You Sow withdrew two similar resolutions with Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo in exchange for new goals on reusables. Coca-Cola Co. has announced the largest corporate goal for reusable packaging, pledging to deliver 25% of beverages by volume in reusables or refillables by 2030. PepsiCo followed suit shortly thereafter with the second-largest corporate reusables goal, committing to deliver 20% of beverages in reusables by 2030. Starbucks has the most ambitious on-site dining goal for reusables, with a commitment to facilitate the use of personal reusable mugs at all U.S. dine-in and drive-through locations by the end of this year.

As You Sow’s work to engage companies on plastic packaging reduction has been catalyzed by the aforementioned Breaking the Plastic Wave report by Systemic and Pew Charitable Trusts, which said immediate and sustained new corporate commitments throughout the plastics value chain are needed, including action to eliminate plastic use and transition to new zero-waste product delivery models.

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As You Sow is the nation’s leading shareholder advocacy nonprofit, with a 30-year track record promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility and advancing values-aligned investing. Its issue areas include climate change, ocean plastics, pesticides, racial justice, workplace diversity, and executive compensation. Click here for As You Sow’s shareholder resolution tracker.

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