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  • Who remembers this infamous Styrofoam container?

  • (Applause)

  • Well, it sure changed me, it changed my company,

  • and it started a revelatory journey

  • about how adversaries can be your best allies.

  • You know, back in the late '80s,

  • this Big Mac clamshell was the symbol of a garbage crisis.

  • People were really angry.

  • For example, thousands of students,

  • young students around the globe were sending letters, blaming McDonald's,

  • because we were using millions of these at that time.

  • Now, no one at McDonald's knew anything about environmentally friendly packaging,

  • including me.

  • The last 10 years,

  • I was in charge of logistics and truck drivers.

  • Then out of nowhere, my boss comes to me

  • and says, "Hey, we want you to save this clamshell for the company

  • and lead the effort to reduce waste within McDonald's."

  • I looked at him and I asked him,

  • "What is polystyrene?"

  • But it all sounded intriguing to me

  • because it brought me back to my roots.

  • You see, I grew up in the late '60s, early '70s,

  • in a time of huge social upheaval in the United States.

  • And I was really in tune with the protests, the sit-ins,

  • the anti-Vietnam sentiment,

  • and I really felt there was a need to question authority.

  • But as I went into university,

  • I realized that I'm not going to make a living doing this.

  • And that whole movement had subsided,

  • and my activist spirit went dormant.

  • And I needed to make a living,

  • so I got involved in the business world.

  • So, now these students against pollution,

  • who were sending those protest letters to McDonald's,

  • they reminded me of myself 20 years ago.

  • They're questioning authority.

  • But now, I'm the man.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm the corporate suit.

  • I'm the one representing authority.

  • And this new thing was emerging

  • called corporate social responsibility,

  • later corporate sustainability,

  • and now I had a chance to make a difference.

  • So the beginning of this journey

  • started when McDonald's agreed to a partnership

  • with the Environmental Defense Fund.

  • They were an NGO

  • that was founded with the principle of "sue the bastards."

  • So I'm thinking,

  • what are they thinking about me and my team?

  • When I first met Richard Denison,

  • he's the senior scientist for EDF,

  • I was very apprehensive.

  • I thought he's a tree-hugger,

  • and I'm thinking he thinks all I care about is the money.

  • So we wanted the EDF team to give us real-world solutions.

  • So we did the logical thing.

  • We had them flip burgers in our restaurants.

  • So you have to imagine Richard,

  • who, by the way, is a PhD in physics,

  • and there he is, he's trying to dress a quarter-pounder,

  • and you're supposed to have two squirts of ketchup, one mustard,

  • three pickles and an onion, go on to the next one,

  • you've got to be so fast.

  • And you know what? He couldn't get it right all day long.

  • And he was frustrated.

  • And I was so impressed,

  • because he was trying to understand our business.

  • Now, the EDF team,

  • they thought reusables were the holy grail for our business.

  • Me and my team thought, reusables?

  • Too much space, they'd make a mess,

  • they would slow us down.

  • But we didn't reject the idea.

  • We went to the restaurant they chose outside DC, we went to the back room.

  • The dishwasher wasn't working properly,

  • it's spitting out dirty dishes.

  • The kitchen area is dirty and grimy.

  • And compared to their experience at McDonald's

  • that's clean and organized,

  • they could see the stark difference.

  • We also sat in a restaurant at McDonald's, all day long,

  • and watched the customers eating in.

  • Their behavior.

  • Ends up that many customers left with the food,

  • they left with the beverage.

  • And EDF came to their own conclusion

  • that reusables wouldn't work for us.

  • But they did have a lot of ideas that did work.

  • And we never would have thought of them by ourselves,

  • without the EDF team.

  • My favorite was switching from the white carry-out bag

  • to the brown bag.

  • We had been using the white bag.

  • It's virgin material,

  • it's made from chlorine bleaching chemicals,

  • and they said, use an unbleached bag,

  • no chemicals.

  • It's made from recycled content,

  • mostly recycled shipping corrugated boxes.

  • Ends up that the bag is stronger, the fiber is stronger,

  • it didn't cost us more money.

  • It was win-win.

  • Another idea they had

  • was that we could reduce our napkin by one inch.

  • And make it from recycled office paper.

  • I'm thinking, one inch, no big deal.

  • We did it, it reduced waste by three million pounds a year.

  • Sixteen thousand trees saved.

  • (Applause)

  • What was really cool is we changed that bright white napkin,

  • because the recycled content became gray and speckled.

  • And we made that look, you know,

  • in tune, in vogue with customers.

  • So, I came to really enjoy

  • the time working with the EDF team.

  • We had many dinners, late-night discussions,

  • we went to a ball game together.

  • We became friends.

  • And that's when I learned a life lesson.

  • That these NGO crusaders,

  • they're really no different than me.

  • They care, they have passion,

  • we're just not different.

  • So, we had a six-month partnership

  • that ended up producing a 42-point waste reduction action plan.

  • To reduce, reuse, recycle.

  • We measured it during the decade of the '90s,

  • and over 10 years we reduced 300 million pounds of waste.

  • Now, if you're wondering about that polystyrene clamshell,

  • yeah, we ditched it.

  • And luckily, I still had a job.

  • And this partnership was so successful

  • that we went on to recycle the idea to work with critics.

  • Collaborate with them on solutions that could work

  • for society and for business.

  • But could this idea of collaborating

  • work with the most contrarian folks?

  • And on issues that are, you know, not within our direct control.

  • Like animal rights.

  • Now, animal rights,

  • obviously they don't want animals used for meat.

  • McDonald's, probably the biggest purchaser of meat

  • in the food service industry.

  • So there's a natural conflict there.

  • But I thought it would be best

  • to go visit and learn from the most vociferous and vigilant critics

  • we had at that time,

  • which were Henry Spira, head of Animal Rights International,

  • and Peter Singer,

  • who wrote the book "Animal Liberation,"

  • which is considered the modern treatise about animal rights.

  • You know, I read Peter's book to prepare,

  • I tried to get into his mindset,

  • and I have to admit, it was tough,

  • I'm not becoming a vegan,

  • my company wasn't going that way.

  • But I really thought we could learn a lot.

  • And so I set up a breakfast meeting in New York City.

  • And I remember sitting down, getting ready,

  • and I decided I'm not going to order my favorite,

  • which is you know, bacon and sausage and eggs.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I'm just going to stick to the pastries.

  • But I have to admit,

  • I was waiting for the adversarial discussion to happen.

  • And it never did.

  • Henry and Peter were just gracious,

  • they were caring, they were smart, they asked good questions.

  • I told them about how working on animal welfare

  • is very tough for McDonald's

  • because our direct suppliers, they only make meat patties.

  • The animals are three or four steps removed from our influence.

  • And they were very empathetic.

  • And while we were so directly opposed

  • in terms of the missions of our organizations,

  • I felt that I had learned a lot.

  • And best of all, they gave me a terrific recommendation.

  • And that is, they said,

  • "You should work with Dr. Temple Grandin."

  • Now, I didn't know her at the time.

  • But I tell you,

  • she's the most renowned expert, then and now, on animal behavior.

  • And she knows how animals move and how they should react in facilities.

  • So I end up meeting her,

  • and she's the very best type of critic,

  • in a sense that she just loves the animals,

  • wants to protect them,

  • but she also understands the reality of the meat business.

  • And I'll always remember,

  • I had never been to a slaughterhouse in my life,

  • and so I go with her for my first trip.

  • I didn't know what to expect.

  • And we find that the animal handlers have electric prods in their hands,

  • and are basically zapping almost every animal in the facility.

  • We're both appalled, she's jumping up and down,

  • you'd have to know her,

  • she's saying, "This can't be, this isn't right,

  • we could use flags, we could use plastic bags,

  • we could redesign the corrals for natural behavior."

  • Well I set up Temple with our suppliers

  • to set up standards and guidelines.

  • And ways to measure her ideas of implementing animal welfare.

  • We did this for the next two to five years.

  • And it all got integrated, it all got enforced.

  • By the way, two of McDonald's suppliers lost business

  • because they didn't meet our standards.

  • And best of all,

  • all these standards ended up scaling to the entire industry.

  • And no more zapping of those animals.

  • Now, what about issues that we're blamed for elsewhere?

  • Like deforestation.

  • You know, on that issue, I always thought,

  • policy makers and government, that's their role.

  • Never thought it would end up in my lap.

  • But I remember in early April 2006,

  • I opened up my Blackberry,

  • and I'm reading about Greenpeace campaigners

  • showing up in the UK by the dozens,

  • dressed as chickens,

  • having breakfast at McDonald's

  • and chaining themselves to the chairs and tables.

  • So they got a lot of attention,

  • including mine.

  • And I was wondering if the report that they had just released,

  • it was called "Eating Up the Amazon."

  • And by the way, soy is a key ingredient for chicken feed,

  • and that's the connection to McDonald's.

  • So I called my trusted friends at the World Wildlife Fund,

  • I called Conservation International,

  • and I soon learned that the Greenpeace report was accurate.

  • So I gathered internal support,

  • and I'll always remember, next day, after that campaign,

  • I called them up,

  • and I said, "We agree with you."

  • And I said, "How about working together?"

  • So three days later,

  • miraculously, four people from McDonald's,

  • four people from Greenpeace,

  • we're meeting in the London Heathrow airport.

  • And I have to say, the first hour was shaky,

  • it wasn't a whole lot of trust in the room.

  • But it seemed like everything came together,

  • because each of us wanted to save the Amazon.

  • And during our discussions,

  • you couldn't really tell, I don't think,

  • who was from Greenpeace and who was from McDonald's.

  • So one of the best things we did