Fast-food operators make an easy public target in these days of our collective anxiety over the alleged obesity epidemic sweeping through the nation’s schools and workplaces like some sort of a new Black Death plague for the 21st Century.
And fair enough—fast-food chains do have a lot of fat on their hands, as it were, having played an important role in contributing to the sedentary, lazy, overindulging lifestyles that define the worst of North American consumerism.
As some clever pundit once remarked, “The journey of a thousand pounds begins with a single hamburger.”
In fact, though, one could argue that foodservice providers have at least matched the efforts made by manufacturers of packaged foods in recent years in regards to eliminating transfats, reducing salt content, cutting back on sugar, using natural ingredients, and making other continuous improvements and innovations to make their products healthier, or at least less harmful.
Not only that, it may not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the foodservice guys are also doing at least as good a job as the packaged foods industry in terms of lessening their global environmental footprint—offering some compelling, outstanding examples of packaging sustainability and energy efficiency that do not always get the public recognition that they duly deserve.
According to the recently-released CSR (corporate social responsibility) report from Yum! Brands, Inc.—the world’s largest restaurant operator and the parent company of popular fast-food chains such as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and A&W Restaurants—the Louisville, Ky.-headquartered foodservice group has managed to reduce the combined energy consumption of all of its U.S. operations by eight per cent in the last two years, and by 13 per cent over the last five years, through continuous installation of environmentally-friendly lighting, heating and air-conditioning systems, as well as new generation, lower-energy restaurant equipment.
Such savings translate into elimination of 60,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions in the last two years—the equivalent of removing 11,000 cars from the roads—and 111,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions in the last five, says the company, which now aims to achieve 10-percent cuts in energy and water usage at all its restaurants worldwide by 2015.
“We believe that our strongest impact and contribution to sustainability lies in the critical parts of our business—the success and diversity of our associates, feeding people, health and nutrition, our supply chain, the environment and community development,” says Yum! Brands chief executive officer David Novak. “Our ability to make a positive difference in the lives of people throughout the world is virtually unlimited and we are energized about how much more we can contribute by building a famous recognition culture where everyone counts, making our brands dynamic and vibrant everywhere, and demonstrating that we’re a company with a huge heart.”
George Guidoni is the editor of Canadian Packaging magazine.
And while actions always speak louder than words in the eyes of public opinion, one can only be encourage by what Yum! Brands has already achieved in terms of reducing its packaging footprint.
For one, all of the company’s U.S. brands now use napkins and fiber drink-cups made from 100-percent recycled-content materials, with its U.S. KFC operations recently being singled out for its innovative reusable food side container as a winner in the 2010 Greener Package Awards competition.
By the end of this year, the U.S.-based KFC operations are expected to reduce their use of foam packaging by 62 per cent, says the company, also noting that its Pizza Hut franchises in the U.S. now utilize up to 50-percent recycled content pizza boxes, while its U.S.-based Taco Bell operations have to date eliminated more than two million pounds of materials from some of their foodservice packaging products.
A remarkable performance we say, dear reader, any way you slice it!