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🗣️ "What Water Means to McDonald's"

The Stream

Photo by Amandine Lerbscher / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Hosts: Will Sarni & Tom Freyberg
Guest: Ian Olson | Senior Director of Global Sustainability | McDonald’s
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[10:27] “All of us are resources dependent companies. And for me, having an economics background, it's simple supply demand. And there are more and more people, there's not enough land, there's not enough water and I think that's why I've gravitated towards water […] in terms of personal interests of mine, because it's a more straightforward conversation, number one. And I can have a conversation with someone who may not believe in climate change. But I can talk to them about water and they get. And if I can bring them along on water, maybe I can bring them along on climate change later, but I can't get the whole thing right away. So it's kind of how you frame your, your engagements, and I found it more effective to kind of frame it in that way, especially with the skeptics.”

[13:22] “A lot of our work has been around sustainable sourcing […] around, fish, and soy and beef and things like that. […] We're working on climate change, we're working on packaging and circular economy. So […] when I think about water, I think it's one of those things that wasn't a natural, “oh, my gosh, we have to work on and prioritize that right away”. That said, I think there has been support to try to figure out, how do we look at this? How do we learn from others? And how do we integrate it either into the work that we're already doing the priorities that we have, Or think about a little differently?

[14:07] “Working on it has been really trying to be a little more strategic about it, and evolve it from where it's come before. So it's not just about water and using less of it and just replacing it. It's understanding, where's the value of water throughout our whole value chain? Because it's not just our supply chain. It's our communities in which we operate. And at the end of the day, we have all these owner operators and thousands of communities worldwide, that this is going to be a hyper local community issue. And we need to figure out how to work with them, so they can be a positive force in their communities around water, too.”

[14:51] “There is that supply chain element, […] but we're also trying to figure out how does that also work within the restaurant footprint as well? And how do we help those owner operators be a positive force in the communities for what they're doing? […] I think most people think about it as a usage phase, we're trying to look at it from a water qualities phase, an infrastructure phase, we're looking at a food safety. There's so many elements to it, that we're still figuring it out, but I feel pretty good about it in terms of the support we're getting.”

[16:29] “The urgency issue […] is going to depend on where you are somewhat geographically. […] Sometimes, I have noticed in the field of sustainability, we want to change the world. I want to have that big impact. I think the cool part about water is, it kind of brings us back to the roots of how do we change communities and build, multiply and […] kind of go at it a little differently than then just, I'm gonna save the world or impact the world at a macro sense. The cool part about water is it brings you back to that community side, I think, which is something overall that I think needs to happen more is kind of control your influence versus trying to just move everything all at once.”

[19:29] “The great thing about McDonald's […] is, I think, […] because we're an accessible brand, we can democratize a bit of sustainability or awareness around these issues. […] People can come and enjoy sustainable coffee at McDonald's at a very affordable price. […] And I think that's what we're trying to leverage. […] What are those things that we can do to reach people that may not think about it every day?”

[23:21] “McDonald's has a long history of innovation, but I think it's innovation around offerings, products. […] And I think water has been one of those that, frankly, probably hasn't been a natural fit for innovation for McDonald's. […] I think when we were looking at trying to figure out, who do we partner with right now to learn from and try to support and kind of have unconventional partnerships […] WaterStart made sense. […] One, they're doing some incredibly innovative stuff, I think it fits with how we're trying to look at this as a strategy, versus just a stewardship approach, which I really liked. The other thing, too, is […] a lot of other members of WaterStart are utilities, and that again, goes back to communities. How do we learn from them? How do we learn what are the issues that are pressing for them? So I think, […] it was to help increase our learning on innovation, figure out where we can play a role in innovation. And then where's the best place for us to prioritize, whether it's restaurant innovation, whether it's supply chain innovation, maybe it's a certain commodity, maybe it's a certain region. Because I think that's the cool part about water,  it cuts across everything.”

[29:30] “Stereotypes are made with preconceived notions that water isn't an issue in Europe. We've had the recent floods […], but even before that, talking to some of our folks in Eastern Europe, water is a big issue for some of our customers in some markets, […] which blew me away. […] It is a big issue in terms of how people are trying to adjust to adapt to a climate that's changing in terms of how they're producing food, or how they're running restaurants, or how they're trying to just make their communities better and more sustainable.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 38 min | 🗓️ 08/25/2021
✅ Time saved: 36 min

Additional Links:
Press Release: “WaterStart Welcomes McDonald's as Newest Member and Ian Olson to the Board of Directors”
Water Foundry