Occupy KFC Demonstrators Called on the Company to Green its Buckets

Occupation is becoming more and more popular (unless you live the occupied territories) and the last target to be occupied in the last couple of days was none other than KFC. However, it was actually not because of what is in their buckets, but because of the buckets themselves.

Organized by Dogwood Alliance, Occupy KFC took place on Wednesday, with demonstrations at over 150 KFC restaurants calling on the company to “stop destroying Southern forests for your throwaway packaging.”  This was another step in a campaign Dogwood Alliance is running against KFC since April 2010, calling for better paper management practices from the company. According to Dogwood Alliance, the iconic KFC bucket and other KFC paper packaging come from critical wetland forests and some of the last remaining special places on the southeastern coast.

Since I had just written about KFC’s parent company, I was curious to learn more about Occupy KFC and got in touch with Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director at Dogwood Alliance.

Triple Pundit: So what exactly happened on Wednesday? How many people participated?

Scot Quaranda: On Wednesday #OccupyKFC, a national day of action targeting KFC happened at over 150 restaurants across the country. The activities included street theater, demonstrations, and letters delivered to store managers. Additionally, hundreds of people who were unable to go to stores occupied by KFC’s Facebook wall letting them know that southern forests shouldn’t be destroyed to make KFC’s disposable fast food packaging.

The goal of the campaign is to convince KFC to adopt an environmental packaging policy that reduces the company’s overall use of packaging, maximizes recycled content in their packaging, and ensures that they are not buying from suppliers that log endangered forests, convert natural forests and wetlands to tree plantations, and utilize the worst of the worst forest management practices in the woods.

3p: Were you happy with the attendance and participation online?

SQ: The attendance was awesome, 150 restaurants is a great number and a lot of those actions happened in KFC’s backyard, the southern US. Additionally, there were even a few actions in Europe. The online participation was really exciting as well as we totally took over their wall for the day. KFC was deleting posts early and often but couldn’t delete them all.

3p: Did you receive any feedback from KFC afterwards?

SQ: We received some feedback from KFC beforehand thanking us for letting them know about the day of action and then they also had a boilerplate response they used for some of the comments posted on their Facebook wall.

3p: Why do you think KFC refuses to consider your requests given its parent company’s commitment to “have a corporate social, economic, and environmental responsibility to our customers, employees, and shareholders to be forward thinking, and intentional in our environmental sustainability vision”?

SQ: That is the part that is confusing to us. We haven’t been overly antagonistic, we have been offering to meet with them since long before we launched a public campaign, and have a track record of success which should be enticing to them. But for over four years now they have strung us along and refused to meet. Earlier this year we convinced McDonald’s to adopt an industry leading policy, maybe executives at Yum! and KFC have too much pride?

3p: Do you think once KFC will agree to green up its packaging, it will be time to deal with what’s inside the buckets?

SQ: PETA and others have been attempting to address what is in the buckets for a long time. I hope that success in our campaign will open the company further to engaging with environmental campaign organizations to at the very least discuss some of these sticky issues.  Our focus is on forest protection so when KFC agrees, we will congratulate them, continue to work with them on implementing the policy, and move on to the next biggest threat.

3p: What’s next on your campaign?

SQ: Coming soon is an exciting new report highlighting best practices for fast food packaging and showcasing leaders and laggards in various sustainability categories. Hopefully, following this successful day of action we will have the opportunity to sit down and discuss the recommendations with KFC and Yum!.

Although it’s yet to be seen what impact Occupy KFC day will have, it looks like KFC is not indifferent to the campaign. Quaranda told me that KFC has hired a Chief Sustainability Officer, seemingly in response to their campaign, in order to figure out how to green the company’s packaging. They also have increased post-consumer recycled content for napkins, bags, bucket lids and drink carriers, but have not addressed the bulk of their packaging which would be food containers, buckets and cups.  He also mentioned that KFC introduced a reusable side dish container which, unfortunately, you can only reuse at home, not in the restaurants.

How will this campaign end? If I had to put my money on one of the sides, it will be on Dogwood Alliance. KFC might have a Colonel Sanders on their side, but Dogwood Alliance seems to have a just cause, patience and creative engagement tactics. If we have learned anything from past campaigns, this is the secret sauce that you need to win such campaigns.

Image credit: Dogwood Alliance

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is also an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

Raz Godelnik

Raz Godelnik is an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the MS in Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons School of Design in New York. Currently, his research projects focus on the impact of the sharing economy on traditional business, the sharing economy and cities’ resilience, the future of design thinking, and the integration of sustainability into Millennials’ lifestyles. Raz is the co-founder of two green startups – Hemper Jeans and Eco-Libris and holds an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

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