Sustainability at Red Lobster and the Olive Garden

Last week, Darden Restaurants, Inc., the umbrella corporation for restaurant chains such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and LongHorn Steakhouse, released its 2012 sustainability report, hitting another benchmark in its CSR efforts. The report highlights the progress Darden has made in all areas of sustainability within its over 1,900 restaurants, 180,000 employees, and global supply chain. In the forefront, the company has exceeded its 2015 goal of reducing water consumption in its restaurants by 15 percent (on aggregate) and is over halfway towards meeting the same percentage goal for reducing its restaurants’ energy consumption (RestaurantNews).

“Water scarcity, declining fish stocks, health and wellness and developing future talent –
these are just some of the issues shaping our operating environment, our communities, and our business,” said Clarence Otis, chairman and CEO of Darden. “We recognize we have the responsibility to make a positive difference around a host of sustainability issues to drive the growth of our company while also creating social value.”

This second annual report for the company divides the company’s direction into three core platforms: People, Planet, and Plate, and includes some of the following notable accomplishments:


  • Becoming the first full-service restaurant company named to the FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in 2011 and 2012.
  • Investing $130 million annually in employee training, professional development and diversity initiatives.
  • Distributing more than 56 million pounds of high-quality food to hunger-relief organizations through the 2004 Darden Harvest program.
  • Exceeding $60 million in charitable donations since 1995.
  • Launching the Darden Restaurants Community Grants program, awarding more than $1.7 million to nearly 900 nonprofit organizations across North America focused on access to postsecondary education, preservation of natural resources, and hunger.


  • Completing new green building prototypes for Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, enabling all new restaurants to align with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards.
  • Achieving 100 percent recycling rate for discarded fry oil, which totaled 20 million gallons in 2011.
  • Tripling the number of Darden restaurants that take part in single-stream recycling of glass, plastics and aluminum.
  • Increasing Darden’s landfill diversion rate by 14 percent.
  • Receiving the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR certification at its Restaurant Support Center facility in Orlando, which is now generating 20 percent or more of its power from the 1.1-megawatt solar installation completed in December.


  • Pledging to reduce its restaurants’ overall calorie and sodium footprints by 10 percent over the next five years and 20 percent over the next 10 years, the most comprehensive health-and-wellness commitment of any restaurant company to date.
  • Continuing Darden’s leadership approach to seafood stewardship with a commitment to Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) standards;
    100 percent of shrimp and 75 percent of tilapia meet GAA standards.
  • Reducing nearly 39 million miles of driving per year with continued use of Darden Direct, its best-in-class food-distribution system that reduces energy use in distribution by more efficiently routing trucks and increasing use of rail shipments.

The results of the report are in step with Darden’s other sustainability commitments such as:

  • The announcement of a four-step framework methodology to assign value to the world’s forests, freshwater, and marine systems and ways to reduce risks caused by scarcities of natural resources at the Rio+20 Conference.
  •  The pledge to assist in the rebuilding of the world’s fisheries (as Darden is one of the largest buyers of seafood worldwide).
  • The establishment of the Office of Sustainability and an internal Sustainability Leadership Council, which work to identify and spread sustainable best practices throughout the company.
  • The partnership with suppliers and key stakeholders to protect resource availability and create long-term collective value through innovative approaches to ecosystem conservation and enhancement.

Effectively minimizing the impact we have within our operations and on the environment enables us to better serve our communities and our guests,” said Drew Madsen, Darden president and chief operating officer. “Just as importantly, we know our employees care about a number of social and environmental issues that we are uniquely positioned to address. We will continue to invest in integrating sustainable best practices across our operations.”

To read the full report, click here.

Photo courtesy of Darden Restaurants, Inc.

Samantha is a graduate of Boston University with concentrations in English, Biology and Environmental Policy. After working in higher education textbook publishing for some time, she turned to the freelance writing world and now reports on corporate social responsibility, green technology and policy, and conservation for TriplePundit.