Today, fast-food giant McDonald's made a stunning announcement that will change the future of the fast-food industry. According to this announcement, 84 percent of McDonald's McCafé coffee for U.S. restaurants (and 54 percent globally) is verified as sustainably sourced. This puts the company on track to meet its goal to sustainably source 100 percent of coffee served in its restaurants globally by 2020.

And why is this a big deal? Says Townsend Bailey, Director, U.S. Supply Chain Sustainability at McDonald's:

"We know many people enjoy coffee as part of their daily routine, and at McDonalds, we are taking meaningful steps to support farmers protecting it from climate change. As we continue on our journey to build a better McDonald's, we are using our size and scale to implement significant changes that are important to our customers, our people and the environment."

As McDonald's points out, rising temperatures may turn out to have a devastating effect on coffee production. According to one study, by 2050, climate change could reduce the world's coffee-growing area by half.

McDonald's explains that its coffee sustainability strategy is just part of its many different efforts to "build a better McDonald's."

In just one example, McDonald's announced in March that its new initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- a part of its Scale for Good initiative -- will prevent 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030. This is the equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year or planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years.

McDonald's will prioritize action in collaboration with thousands of franchisees, suppliers and producers, prioritizing action on the largest segments of its carbon footprint. These segments combined account for approximately 64 percent of McDonald's global emissions:

  • Beef production
  • Restaurant energy usage and sourcing
  • Packaging and waste

As with its other efforts to improve the sourcing of the food it serves, McDonald's is going to have a tremendously positive impact on the world around us given its huge, global scale. And as we have seen with other McDonald's initiatives, when the company sets the pace, others follow.