Wendy’s, originator of the “Where’s the beef” catchphrase and home of the unparalleled and delicious Frosty, just came out with some new information on their palm oil sourcing plans. But much like their famed 80’s commercials in which cute senior citizens find themselves unable to locate the tiny slice of beef on a giant bun, I’m having trouble finding any real reason to celebrate Wendy’s new palm oil commitment. In fact, I keep rereading their website, searching for more substance.
Many of Wendy’s competitors have recently begun making changes to their own palm oil commitments. Dunkin’ Brands and Krispy Kreme were the first to take the plunge, followed by Yum! Brands’ and most recently, a broad commitment to deforestation-free supply chains by industry leader, McDonald’s. So it is clear why the connections between palm oil and deforestation are finally on Wendy’s radar.
Yet while Wendy’s has shown us a fluffy white bun in the form of new information on their website, the actual meat of the commitment is difficult to find. The policy only covers their operations in North America (confusingly defined as the United States and Canada even though Wendy’s definitely exists in Mexico). While the majority of their restaurants are currently in these two countries, Wendy’s operates in 27 other countries and U.S. territories and has stated that new market expansion is a “dominant driver of Wendy’s worldwide strategy over the coming years.” And it is the markets outside the United States where palm oil is most often used as a cooking oil—making it vital that this commitment become global in scope.
In fact, nowhere in their position statement does Wendy’s mention forests. They have not committed to protecting primary forests, secondary forests or peatlands. The most Wendy’s will commit to is buying RSPO-certified oil (and in some cases only GreenPalm certificates) to cover their U.S. and Canadian operations. I’ve written about the problems with GreenPalm in the past, but basically when a company uses GreenPalm certificates, the palm oil they use may still be from deforestation.
So, come on Wendy’s! Wendy’s claims on its website that it strives “to be good stewards of the environment by working closely with our vendors, to purchase products and services with a view toward energy efficiency and a low environmental impact,” yet chooses to continue to contribute to deforestation through its sourcing of unsustainable palm oil.
We know where the palm oil is, now Wendy’s, where’s the beef?