McDonald's aims to grow green practices

OAK BROOK Ill. McDonald's Corp. prides itself on the sustainable initiatives it employs at its more than 32,000 fast-food restaurants around the world. Recently, Jill Scandridge, the company's director of public affairs, discussed some of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based giant's eco-friendly plans.

What green initiatives is McDonald's working on for the rest of the year?

Essentially, we are building on the history of what we've already built [environmentally]. Our program centers around four main areas: energy efficiency, design, packaging and sustainable supply. As a company, we recognize that our greatest opportunities can come from energy efficiency.

In terms of energy efficiency, what specifically is the company doing?

We're looking at the equipment itself, making sure our employees know how to best use that equipment. We've also [implemented] a fire-up schedule where workers use the kitchen equipment only when they need to rather than all day. In addition, we've started an incentive plan internally called the Energy All-Star Plan that recognizes managers who use energy-efficiency tools and, as a result, help create great savings.

What is the biggest takeaway concerning going green?

We've learned that being more sustainable allows us to do good and do well as a company at the same time. For example, we were able in 2007, through our energy management program, to reduce carbon emissions by over 200,000 tons and produce energy savings of about $30 million in the U.S. systemwide.

Is the company planning to open any more LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified restaurants?

In the U.S., we've got two LEED-certified restaurants. The first was built in 2005 by a franchisee and the other is corporate owned. The key thing for us is not only to be able to achieve gold certification, but [also for the company store] to serve as the pilot for us going forward in terms of helping the environment and on ROI. We're measuring the impact of savings on electricity and water and using recycled tiles and glass for the windows in order to understand the performance and how long they will last. ... We're starting to see key areas where we can make improvements. The goal is to identify what we can implement systemwide.