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Chick-fil-A: Stewards of the Environment?

Chick-fil-A and Environment

Last week, we saw an uproar of protests for and against Chick-fil-A, not because of the company itself, but because of the founder, Dan Cathy’s, position against the legality of gay marriage.  Cathy runs his company based on his religious convictions.  His biblical understanding also informs his position on gay marriage.

Most individuals who advocate for sustainability tend to also be in favor of gay marriage rights, and may even agree with the protest against Cathy and Chick-fil-A.  But what if that same religious conviction inspired action towards environmental sustainability?  How would that change not only what we think of, but whether we do or do not buy from Chick-fil-A?

Setting aside politics
Since there is so much emotion based on the gay marriage political positions, before we digress into Chick-fil-A’s environmental sustainability, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and cast it aside for the moment.

Chick-fil-A has become a symbol to express our political positions on the legality of gay marriage.  Chick-fil-A is not the cause of whether or not gay marriage should be legal, but is a physical manifestation of where folks can show their anger or encouragement for their own cause.

Supporters of the gay marriage position are protesting and boycotting restaurants.  Opposers of the gay marriage position are buying more and more Chick-fil-A, probably more than they would normally.

There are even some folks who support gay marriage, yet do not boycott Chick-fil-A’s because they support of the companies right to free speech.  We have to cast these debates aside to give Chick-fil-A a fair assessment on what they are doing for the environment, and why they are doing it.

Caring for the environment
For some of us, we are stewards of the environment for the sake of the planet itself.  For other folks, we are custodian to terra firma for the benefit of people.  Perhaps some folks do it because it will make them great profit.

And yet other folks are caretakers of the earth based on biblical or religious values.  Chick-fil-A’s calling for environmental stewardship falls into the biblical or religious values category.

On environmental stewardship, Chick-fil-A writes:

Our Corporate Purpose calls for us to be "a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us" and "to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." With this in mind, Chick-fil-A cares about and is committed to being good stewards of the environment, as well as the communities in which we operate.

Environmental sustainability focus areas
Just like any company, there are many areas to cover in sustainability.  Chick-fil-A focuses on four areas:

  • sustainable new restaurant development

  • energy and water in existing restaurants

  • sustainable supply chain

  • cup recycling.

Chick-fil-A is breaking ground with a LEED® Gold certified restaurant in Montgomery Plaza, Fort Worth, Texas.  The company is using this restaurant as a test case, and if it is successful, plans to build more LEED restaurants in the future.  Let’s pray that all their new restaurants meet the LEED standard.

At the same time, Chick-fil-A is retrofitting existing restaurants, which include more efficient lighting and refrigeration, as well as water faucet restrictors.

Similar to what Walmart has done with their suppliers, Chick-fil-A has “asked [their] suppliers to join us on our environmental stewardship journey.”  The details of such efforts are not listed, but it would be interesting to see what innovations come from a restaurant supply chain partnership.  Could Chick-fil-A be the Walmart of restaurant supply chains?

One thing we may call a red flag on the first one cup recycling, because Chick-fil-A uses foam cups.  Yes, foam cups are recyclable (and some paper cups are not recyclable) as Chick-fil-A claims.  But, there are some challenges to recycling foam cups, such as demand for recycled polystyrene.

For a company whose business isn't in sustainability, these is a pretty good effort towards environmental sustainability.

To support or not?
What do you think of Chick-fil-A’s environmental sustainability efforts?  What is the reason you are a steward for the environment?  If a company is adamantly against your political position, yet for your environmental position, do you support or boycott that company?

Image credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Jonathan Mariano headshotJonathan Mariano

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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