McDonald’s to Bring Sustainable Fish to Millions in Europe

June 9, 2011 11:18

In a landmark move for sustainability, McDonald's has announced that over 13 million customers every day across Europe will be able to buy Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fish in McDonald's restaurants from October this year, reports with reference to MSC. 

The news comes as 7,000 McDonald's restaurants across 39 European countries achieve certification to the MSC Chain of Custody traceability standard, as part of the company's ongoing commitment to enhance its sustainable sourcing practices.

Over 50% of the world's marine fish stocks are fully exploited*. The MSC is an independent global organisation set up to tackle the problem of overfishing by recognising and rewarding sustainable fisheries through its certification and eco-labelling programme. McDonald's will be the first company in its sector to introduce MSC certified white fish throughout Europe. Last year, the company sold approximately 100 million Filet-o-Fish portions across Europe.
The initiative will bring certified sustainable fish to millions of people, making it more accessible to more European consumers than ever before.  McDonald's will be the first food service retailer in many of its 39 European countries to sell any products carrying the MSC logo, which will start appearing on packaging from October.

The certification is a result of a long term commitment made by McDonald's to work with suppliers to improve sustainable fishing practices through its global Sustainable Fisheries Policy.

Steve Easterbrook, President of McDonald's Europe said:

"McDonald's will be making MSC labelled fish available at an affordable price to millions of our customers across Europe. We chose the MSC certification as the most robust and recognisable independent accreditation of our own sustainable fisheries standard. This is an important milestone in our commitment to ensure future long-term supply."

Rupert Howes, CEO of the Marine Stewardship Council, said:

"McDonald's Europe's decision to source white fish products exclusively from fisheries that have met the rigorous MSC standard for sustainability is a tremendous testament to the ability of our industry leaders to transform the seafood market and help drive changes on the water. We're delighted all of McDonald's Filet-O-Fish in Europe will be MSC certified and McDonald's is making sustainable fish so widely available. This is a fantastic achievement and we hope that others will follow their lead."

This is the latest landmark in McDonald's pan-European sustainability drive. In 2001, the company established its European McDonald's Agricultural Assistance Programme (MAAP), to increase transparency and drive improvements in quality and sustainability in its agricultural supply chain. 

In 2007, McDonald's helped promote consumer awareness of responsible sourcing by rolling out sustainably certified coffee in all of its European restaurants. The logos of organisations such as the Rainforest Alliance and Utz Certified now appear on one million cups of coffee served in McDonald's European restaurants every day.

In September 2009, McDonald's built on MAAP when it launched the Flagship Farms Programme; a project developed to encourage sharing and improvements in sustainable agriculture, through a direct dialogue amongst progressive farmers across Europe.

McDonald's also announced a Sustainable Land Management Commitment in March this year. Based on an analysis conducted in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the SLMC requires that, over time, its suppliers only use agricultural raw materials for the company's food and packaging that originate from sustainably-managed land.

* The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010, The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
About McDonald's Global Sustainable Fisheries Policy:

  • McDonald's Global Sustainable Fisheries Policy was developed in 2003 with the help of Jim Cannon at Conservation International. Jim, now founder and CEO of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, is an independent expert and leader in his field, so McDonald's encouraged its suppliers to work with him.
•    The policy requires that an annual independent assessment is carried out at each of the fisheries from which McDonald's source. This assessment is conducted by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and uses the latest scientific information to rate each fishery according to three criteria: fish stock status, management quality and marine environment and biodiversity conservation.

About the Eastern Baltic fishery:

  • One fishery for which the certification is a particular achievement is the Espersen cod fishery in the Eastern Baltic Sea. Five years ago the fishery was in trouble, with stocks at risk of collapsing and no management plan in place. It failed to meet McDonald's Sustainable Fisheries Policy standards which meant McDonald's had to stop sourcing fish from there - the first time it had taken such action.
  • However, McDonald's remained engaged whilst fish supplier Espersen and the SFP worked with the fishermen to improve sustainability. McDonald's actions in pulling out of the Eastern Baltic were a catalyst for change, spurring Espersen and other fish suppliers to challenge fisheries to accept standards and auditing, and to persuade the EU to clamp down on illegal fishing. Five years later, fishing mortality in the Eastern Baltic is at its lowest since the 1940s and McDonald's is once again sourcing from the region.
History of the Filet-O-Fish:
  • The Filet-O-Fish was created by a McDonald's franchisee in Cincinnati, Ohio, named Lou Groen in 1962
  • Groen owned a McDonald's in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighbourhood where his Catholic customers didn't eat meat on Fridays
  • To resolve the problem of losing business on a Friday, Groen invented a fish sandwich and flew to Chicago to pitch the idea to McDonald's managers, who were very impressed
  • Within two years of Groen introducing the product in his store, sales had grown by 30 per cent
•    The product was then developed for a mass audience by Bud Sweeney - an independent supplier. After the product was approved in 1962 as the first chain-wide addition to McDonald's menu, he found local distributors, helped select freezer equipment, and aided McDonald's in developing a fish fryer. Bud then travelled around the country convincing McDonald's operators of the need to add fish to their menu
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