KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, collectively known as Yum! Brands, have taken on an unexpected new social cause: a commitment to a greener world. Yum! Brands announced a commitment to reduce deforestation and use only peat-free palm oil from sustainable sources, the first fast food brand to do so. The commitment will go into effect company-wide by 2018. The two causes go hand in hand, because as the demand for palm oil (an oil made from West African palm trees that’s widely used in fast food) increases, so does deforestation.
Indonesia and Malaysia are the primary producers of palm oil, with tropical forests teeming with millions of oil palm trees. As global demand for the oil increases, deforestation releases carbon into the atmosphere, which can speed up global warming, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Our goal is to source 100% of our palm oil from responsible and sustainable sources by the end of 2017,” Yum! Brands said in a statement. “We will also give preference to suppliers that are RSPO [Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil] certified. In addition, we will source palm oil only from suppliers whose operations meet the following principles.”
But the initiative is not perfect.
“The problem is that palm oil is also a common ingredient in some the company’s baked goods and sauces — products that are prepared by a third-party vendor — and are not covered under the commitment,” Lael Goodman, an analyst with UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative, said in a statement. “If I’m eating a KFC meal including the Colonel’s Original Recipe fried chicken with a biscuit and gravy, Yum! Brands’ failure to expand their commitment to all palm oil uses means my finger lickin’ good chicken isn’t linked to deforestation, but my biscuit and gravy does not come with the same assurances.”
Yum! Brands admits that the new policy is not perfect, and states that they will continue to evolve the company’s sustainable efforts.