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Shareholders organised to apply pressure on McDonald’s use of polystyrene cups and trays.

Posted on Jan 4, 2018 4:20:00 PM

McDonalds.jpg“The McDonald’s brand is put at risk with branded cups found on beaches and waterways…”

Shareholder advocacy group As You Sow has re-filed for 2018 a resolution with McDonald’s Corp., urging the fast-food giant to assess the environmental impact of its use of harmful polystyrene in beverage cups and food trays. The same proposal was voted on by shareholders earlier this year and received the support of nearly one-third of shares voted. Founded in 1992, As You Sow promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Among their successes in 2017 were ensuring Unilever agreed to make all consumer product packaging recyclable and making sure that Target agreed to phase out polystyrene foam packaging in e-commerce.

Polystyrene has been widely used for single-use containers across the world for decades, but in recent years, its negative environmental and health profile have led major companies to drop it. McDonald’s phased out its use for hot beverage cups in the U.S. in 2013, but still uses it in overseas markets.

Rarely recycled, polystyrene is found on ocean beach clean-ups frequently. The material breaks down into indigestible pellets, which marine wildlife often mistake for food, resulting in the deaths of fish, birds, turtles, and whales. Its hazardous constituent chemicals have been show to accumulate water borne toxins in a short time frame, and As You Sow (@AsYouSowalso report that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that styrene, used in the production of polystyrene, is a possible human carcinogen.

Nine countries and more than 100 U.S. cities or counties have banned or restricted foam packaging. Leaders of 15 major companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever have all recommended phasing out polystyrene for packaging applications.

“McDonald’s cannot afford to fall behind other companies in phasing out polystyrene,” said Conrad MacKerron ( @cmackerron ), Vice President at As You Sow, who specializes in waste and recycling issues. “The McDonald’s brand is put at risk with branded cups found on beaches and waterways, where the environmental hazard they present is plain to see.”

Actiam, a leading responsible fund and asset manager, co-filed the proposal. “We appreciate the steps that McDonald’s has taken to decrease use of polystyrene foam,” said Maxime Molenaar, Responsible Investment Officer for Actiam (@ACTIAM. “However, we are concerned about the continuing use of the material in some markets and the absence of a policy commitment to complete phase out of polystyrene foam in packaging.”

JLens, a network of Jewish faith-based investors also co-filed the proposal. If the proposal appears on the company’s proxy, it would be voted on in May 2018.

December 2017 also saw another investor coalition call for McDonalds to stop buying or producing meat raised with medically important antibiotics. Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) ( @ICCRonline have filed a shareholder resolutions. If the resolutions are not successfully challenged by the companies, they will come up for vote at the companies’ next shareholders meetings.

You may also be interested in... 

Read: Costa Coffee are cleaning up their act to stop 30 million paper cups going to landfill.

Expert View: Fast-fashion retailer H&M "conscious" to deliver sustainable solutions.

Read: Ecover launches bottle made from 50% ocean plastic. 

Attend: World Bio Markets, Amsterdam, March 20th-22nd 2018  


Topics: BBWNBrands, Packaging, Nutrition and Food, regulation

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About the Author

Luke Upton
Luke Upton
Luke is the editor and co-founder of Bio-Based World has edited this site since its launch and previously worked for b2b media companies across industries including energy, advertising and sport. His more