Can fast food be sustainable? For the most part, the answer is no, with a few notable exceptions.
Overall, the fast food industry has built its success upon fuel-intensive, large-scale industrial inputs that are harmful to human health and the environment.
However, having a reputation for corporate social responsibility has become increasingly critical to a company’s success.
This paradigm shift has motivated many fast food companies to reduce their ecological footprints and inspired the establishment of a number of greener fast food restaurants and small chains in various regions.
The Swedish fast food chain, Max Burgers, is a good example of the green fast food trend.
Max Burgers shifted to greener practices and enjoyed increased customer loyalty and sales as a result. The company significantly cut its overall energy consumption, sponsored the planting of trees in Uganda to offset its carbon emissions, and put labels on its packaging indicating how much CO2 each meal generated. Since making these changes, Max Burgers has risen to become the most popular and profitable burger chain Sweden, outcompeting McDonalds despite the fact that the latter had far more restaurants in the country.
Pizza Fusion is another example of environmentally friendly fast food. Its products are made with organic ingredients and delivered in hybrid vehicles, its employees wear uniforms made from organic cotton, its buildings meet various green standards, and its pizza boxes are returnable for a future discount.
As for which popular fast food options are the greenest, Greenopia gives top marks to Pizza Fusion and EVOs; high marks to Burgerville and Chipotle; a mediocre score for McDonalds; a low score for Subway; and zeros for Domino’s Pizza, Arby’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Jack in the Box.
Van Gilder Cooke, “Why Going Green Can Mean Big Money for Fast-Food Chains,” Time, 9 April 2012.
Wheeland, M., “Ranking the Greenest Fast Food Chains,” GreenBiz.com, 23 March 2009.
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