Leading the Pack, a look into A&W’s Sustainability Success

A&W has been one of Canada’s most successful restaurant companies for close to 60 years. Known for their great family of burgers, root beer and strong branding, the company is also one of  Canada’s leading food-service organizations when it comes to focusing on environmental sustainability.  We at UGSRP have been huge admirers of the work A&W is doing and recently had an opportunity to sit down with some of their team and ask them about their Environmental Leadership strategy.

Q.  When did A&W start its efforts to become more ‘environmentally and socially’ responsible and was there anything specific that led to this decision?

A&W.  “Our A&W founders pointed us in the right direction in terms of environmental responsibility, whether they realized it or not. With our reusable glass root beer mugs, we have been reducing waste at the source since our inception. We recognized that environmental responsibility was important to our franchisees and our guests, so we officially created an Environmental Leadership strategy in 2009.”

Q.   Your ‘better beef’ program has been a huge success.  When did you start the program?

A&W.  “In 2012 we introduced beef raised without the use of hormones or steroids. We spent several years beforehand preparing and working with our partners and ranchers to guarantee continuous supply for a nation-wide roll out.”

Q.   What changes in supply chain management did you have to make to switch to steroid and hormone free beef?

A&W.  “We were fortunate that we had a great relationship with our existing beef supply partner and they were eager to work with us to connect with ranchers who were able to provide the type of beef our guests were asking for.”

Q.  When did you switch to the use of ‘ceramics and stainless steel cutlery’ for dine in? How many units do this and to what extent?

A&W.  “We introduced ceramic plates and stainless steel cutlery in 2014 in all of our restaurants that have their own dining rooms – over 560 restaurants across the country. Food court locations that are unable to implement the reusable packaging use compostable plates instead.”

Q.   Can you give some details to your recent decision to use ‘ fair trade’ coffee?

A&W.  “Coffee is an important part of breakfast and we heard from our guests that they wanted a coffee blend that is fair trade and organic.”

Q.  We have mentioned your glass mugs and in store cutlery but  have you started any initiatives in regards to take-out packaging? 

A&W.  “We have made many changes to our packaging in the last few years in an effort to reduce our waste to landfills. One of the biggest changes was the switch from foil burger bags to compostable paper bags.”

Q.  How do you measure your success in this regards? Do you have specific targets?

A&W.  “A recent waste audit showed that only 12% of waste in our restaurants is true landfill waste – everything else is compostable or recyclable! Back in 2009, the waste proportion was 55%. We’ve made huge progress, but our goal is to eliminate waste completely.”

Q.   What has the franchisee reaction been to all of these initiatives?

A&W.  “Our franchisees have been very supportive. Environmental leadership is important to them, and they know that their staff and guests care as well.”

More information about A&W’s environmental initiatives can be found on their website http://www.aw.ca/

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