McDonald's shareholders vote to ignore activist demands and keep plastic straws

McDonald's shareholders vote to ignore activist demands and keep plastic straws

On the whole, McDonald's can say that they've had a positive effect in the global progress of humanity over the last 70 years or so. While they've taken the brunt of the blame for the childhood obesity epidemic and their food isn't exactly helpful for weight loss or anything, the Golden Arches logo is one of the most recognizable logos in the world, and their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and more have brought smiles to so many faces across the globe.

In pursuit of all that, though, there's at least one more thing that McDonald's could have done to help the world out - reduce the amount of waste by switching from plastic straws to paper ones. It's an initiative that's adopted by other establishments in the food industry, not to mention some bars and restaurants, but in a vote by McDonald's shareholders, the fast food company have officially voted against phasing out plastic straws.

Activist consumer watchdog group SumOfUs were behind the proposal, accumulating around 500,000 signatures asking McDonald's to phase out the straws. They had argued that not adhering to these environmental concerns could lead to a "consumer backlash", but at the company meeting, this amounted to a measly eight percent of the vote.

“The requested report is unnecessary, redundant to our current practices and initiatives, and has the potential for a diversion of resources with no corresponding benefit to the company, our customers, and our shareholders,” said the McDonald's board shortly after the vote, while also telling shareholders that "all of McDonald's guest packaging (including straws) will come from renewable, recycled or certified sources".

“We continue to work to find a more sustainable solution for plastic straws globally,” McDonald's revealed in a statement to USA Today, before the vote occurred. “In the meantime, we have adopted compostable straws in certain markets to meet regulations while we work with packaging experts to develop a planet-friendly, cost-effective answer for all McDonald’s restaurants.”

In the wake of the vote, however, it's unclear as to how McDonald's will proceed. However, Sondhya Gupta, senior campaigner at SumOfUs, says she's seen signs of progress ever since the campaign started, and hopes that the no-vote is not the end of a sustainable push for one of the planet's biggest corporations.

"We hope McDonald's will continue to take this issue seriously and we look forward to them reporting back on a timeline for instituting these important reforms," Gupta said.

Helped in part by nature documentaries such as Blue Planet II, there's been an increased push by activist groups to ensure that our oceans are at least partly spared from the effects of plastic pollution. While McDonald's have so far voted against the movement, it's gaining traction in other places: hotel company Hilton announced on Wednesday they are to eliminate plastic straws from the 650 hotels, located all over the world.

It's a small start, but one that's going to be vital for environmental health moving forward. McDonald's may not be getting rid of plastic straws any time soon, but let's hope they keep working towards a sustainable solution for their delicious drinks moving forward.