Out with Duh-nuts, in with DO-nuts: Two Major Fast Food Brands Tackle Deforestation

September 18, 2014 | 10:47 am
Calen May-Tobin
Former contributor

Every Tuesday night in college, I would get in my get in my ’87 Tercel and drive 15 miles over winding surface streets and three highways to my destination. Lit up like a Christmas tree, green, red, and white, it was a beacon in a darkened and deserted mall parking lot: Krispy Kreme.

On Tuesdays, you could pick up two dozen, still warm, glazed doughnuts for the price of one, music to a sugar-addicted college student’s ears. I’d easily eat a half dozen on my way home, and invariably make myself sick by the end of the night but I kept going back week in and week out.

And while I can barely manage two doughnuts these days (let alone two dozen), I was still pleased to see two of the country’s largest doughnut chains, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Brands (who owns both Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins), strengthen their commitments to protecting one the few things I care more about than sweets: tropical forests.

One small step for a (well two) companies…


Thanks to Dunkin’ and Krispy Kreme’s new policies we can now enjoy these with slightly less guilt (Photo: Flickr-roboppy)

Dunkin’s announcement came in the form of new sourcing guidelines (not yet available online but referenced in a press release), while Krispy Kreme’s came in the form of an update to its FAQ’s, and while both lack some clarity of timelines and scope of implementation, they represent major efforts within the companies to address this issue.

I have written before about the abysmal performance of the fast food sector when it comes to protecting the tropical forests. In UCS’s analysis of companies palm oil use, Donuts, Deodorant, Deforestation, eight out of ten fast companies received a zero score because their commitments were inadequate or, in some cases, non-existent. It’s therefore promising to see two fast food companies taking this issue seriously.

One giant leap for consumer-kind

These announcements demonstrate the power that consumers can have to move companies. In our scorecard, the packaged food sector scored the highest in part because those companies have been subject to years of public campaigning.

Nestle is the classic example of this, once viewed as one of the worst actors, the company responded to consumer outcry motivated by a Greenpeace campaign to became the first company to commit to deforestation-free palm oil.

Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’s Brands new commitments can likewise be tied to public pressure. UCS and other groups rallied Dunkin’s customers to voice their concerns at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May and attended Krispy Kreme’s new store openings in Tennessee, Delaware, and Florida.What we have seen time and again is that when consumers speak, companies listen, and act.

“I believe these companies should commit themselves…”

But the fast food sector still has a long way to go. Companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Yum Brands! (owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco bell) still have woefully inadequate and outdated policies. For instance, at the time of our scorecard release Burger King still had a policy on its website (since taken down but still available on the UCS website), which hadn’t been updated since 2010 and stating that it wouldn’t purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas, a company that was once environmental enemy number one but has long been at the forefront of implementing deforestation-free palm oil production.

Fast food companies are no stranger to their products driving deforestation. In the 2000’s, McDonald’s was targeted by Greenpeace for its links to soy driven deforestation in Brazil. Burger King was linked to deforestation from beef production as far back as the 1980’s. In both cases the companies took steps to address the issue, so it’s difficult for them to plead ignorance or hardship when it comes to palm oil.

So what can you do as a fellow lover of tropical forests and the occasional fast food indulgence? Tell McDonald’s to go deforestation free!

We all know that fast food isn’t great for our health, but Dunkin’ Brands and Krispy Kreme have demonstrated it doesn’t have to be bad for the health of the planet as well. While there is still a lot of work to be done, I’m taking heart that I can stop in to Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts on my way to work with a little less guilt. Now if we could only do something about that McDonald’s by my house…