Earlier this year, McDonald's committed to start buying verified sustainable beef by 2016. At the time, the company didn't have a definition for sustainable beef. Now it appears that the fast-food chain will let suppliers in various regions find ways to source sustainable beef—the idea being that sustainable beef production looks different depending on where a restaurant is located.
In an interview with Bloomberg BNA, Jeffrey Hogue, McDonald's senior director of global corporate social responsibility and sustainability, explained the decision, saying that beef can be grown anywhere, but "the environmental impacts in one place will be a lot different than the environmental impacts in another place."
Every supplier will, however, have to follow the sustainability principles currently under development with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a group made up of organizations including Cargill, McDonald's, the World Wildlife Fund, and Walmart. A draft version of the principles is available here.
The fast-food giant reportedly chose 2016 as its deadline because that's when the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef plans on launching pilot projects to measure the social and environmental effects of raising cattle in beef-producing nations. In other words, McDonald's expects the roundtable to have a better idea of best practices by then.
The strategy of allowing McDonald's restaurants to figure out their own path to sustainability is similar to what the chain has done with its energy goals, letting individual chains come up with plans to improve energy efficiency 20% by 2020.