How are we defining and recognizing “impact” within the renewable energy industry?
McDonald’s is proud to be recognized as the 4th largest corporate buyer of renewable energy as a part of REBA’s Deal Tracker Top 10 list, having procured 750 MW of wind and solar throughout the year. Historically the sheer volume in MW has been the main metric used to define success within this space, and it is indeed an impressive and important achievement as it relates to our progress towards a zero-carbon future. We must ask what are the other metrics define true impact – and how can we incentivize and recognize small energy buyers that are making large organizational shifts and change management lifts to take their first step in renewable energy procurement?
With the recent publication of REBA and Salesforce’s whitepaper, Beyond the Megawatt, we begin to reveal other criteria buyers should consider when designing their renewable energy procurement strategy. The criteria cover a wide range of social, environmental, and economic categories – each with a respective impact weight, specific to each buyer.
McDonald’s initially entered the world of large-scale renewable energy procurement from a sense of responsibility that we had to do our part in addressing climate change. As we make more progress towards our climate action goal through our virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) transactions, we have begun to peel back the layers as it relates to impact. Coincidentally, in July of 2020, McDonald’s announced a refresh to its set of company values: Serve, Inclusion, Integrity, Community, & Family. Our values don’t all revolve around serving the best burger to our customers, it’s about how we do our business.
Renewable energy is no different: we must consider how we are procuring our renewable energy and it must deliver the most impactful results in all categories. In October of 2020, McDonald’s announced that it would be creating a brand-new department, led by a brand new Chief Impact Officer role, that would be filled by Katie Beirne Fallon – former White House Director of Legislative Affairs. The department was created because our CEO said that “none of us have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines anymore” and that we do in fact, have the responsibility to use our scale to do good.
These organizational shifts paired with support from leadership that truly believes McDonald’s has the responsibility to do the right thing has given our renewable energy work new life and the tailwinds we need to move beyond reaching our ambitious climate goal (we announced that we are approximately halfway there). It’s not just about the megawatt. It’s about so much more: It’s about working closely with the communities our projects are in to identify meaningful impact we can have together. It’s about working closely with organizations involved with legislation on environmental justice to address the inequity of access to clean energy and to ensure momentum towards a zero-carbon future doesn’t slow. It’s about incorporating human rights standards, diversity equity, & inclusion standards, and environmental standards into our procurement processes in order to affect systemic change in the industry and ensure that our suppliers are aligned with our values of doing the right thing. The possibilities are endless, and McDonald’s is just getting started on finding our impact areas beyond just (but in addition to!) “volume of megawatts procured”.
Do not misunderstand me- volume of procurement must continue to increase year over year, but I want to challenge you in thinking that volume is just one metric of success that we are measuring in a world of possibilities where the renewable energy industry is uniquely positioned to affect positive systemic change across countless impact areas.
As a REBA community, let’s start recognizing impact beyond volume. What are your organizations impact areas and how can McDonald’s and REBA help?