Behind the Big Mac

After a two-day tour of McDonald’s supply chain, one industry expert described the company’s efforts as “mature” and “very transparent”


Pure beef: independent quality scouts said the British burgers had “no additional content”

After the horsemeat scandal rocked the food industry and raised questions about transparency in many businesses’ supply chains, McDonald’s has been inviting members of the public to investigate behind the scenes for themselves.

Alan MacDonald, lecturer in Supply Chain Management at Glasgow College, was one such scout and got the chance to investigate a number of sites, including a farm, an abattoir and a restaurant.

The level of transparency that he described is very reassuring after so much damage was done to the food industry earlier this year. He also talked of the “high-end specifications” that suppliers are required to meet.

These observations support McDonald’s claims of creating a sustainable supply chain by focusing on “the 3E’s”: Ethics, Environment and Economics.

Getting more transparency into any supply chain is very important – whether that’s about how food is grown, how workers are treated or how much water is used.

What about carbon?

McDonald’s work on tackling carbon emissions is one element of its corporate sustainability that is particularly interesting.

For example, in 2012 McDonald’s launched a web-based toolkit to help each of its European operations better understand and reduce their carbon footprint.

The toolkit is loaded with various datasets and linked to its Corporate Responsibility Reporting System, enabling a carbon footprint to be calculated when data on electricity usage and the number of products sold is inputted.  

According to Rolf Huwyler, Environment and CSR Manager of McDonald’s Europe, this is helping country managers “to identify and measure the key reduction potentials” in each of its regional operations.  

This kind of automation – i.e. the use of multiple data streams and statistical methodologies, is one of the ways which helps amee to provide insight into the environmental and financial performance of entire supply chains

Of course with a brand the size of McDonald’s there’s always more to do – and that’s certainly true of its carbon footprint.

While its progress is promising there are three aspects which are still missing:

1. Clear data and quantitative analysis on its environmental impact (including carbon emissions)

2. Regular / continuous monitoring of the above

3. Greater public disclosure about its supply chain transparency  

By taking these steps McDonald’s can achieve a more convincing level of transparency whilst reducing supply chain risk.

Check out McDonald’s ameeProfile here.

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