May 17, 2020

Oxfam Advises Top 10 Food Brands to Reduce Supply Chain Emissions

global news
Oxfam
Supply Chain
Sustainability
Frazer Jones
2 min
Truck refueling [Image Credit: Taina Sohlman / Shutterstock.com]
When it comes to emissions and sustainability initiatives, what is a businesss responsibility to the rest of the world? In a new report, poverty and hun...

When it comes to emissions and sustainability initiatives, what is a business’s responsibility to the rest of the world? In a new report, poverty and hunger-fighting organization Oxfam is urging the top ten global food and beverage processing companies to take more responsibility for their own operations and take action to reduce emissions from their own respective supply chains – for their own good and for the good of the world.

Oxfam’s plea targets the largest food and beverage in the world – globally recognized brands like Nestle, Mondelez International, and PepsiCo. Why zero in on these brands alone? According to Oxfam, it’s due to the massive effect each one has on the world due to sheer size and global reach. As Oxfam’s report claims, these ten corporations produce 263.7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (“more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined”) each year, and much of that comes from the brands’ supply chain operations.

"The food industry has a moral imperative and a business responsibility to dramatically step up its efforts to tackle climate change," said Oxfam's executive director Winnie Byanyima in Oxfam’s report. "The 'big 10' companies are failing to use their power responsibly and we will all suffer the consequences."

That “we” absolutely includes the food industry’s Big Ten as well – food production doesn’t occur in a vacuum, after all. Climate change is threatening to have a profound effect on food commodity production, leading to scarcity and drastic spikes in food prices. From affected bottom lines to a rise in world hunger, it’s troubling news from at any angle.

Some brands, like Unilever, are ahead of the pack in terms of committing to reducing emissions and working green initiatives into their operations; others, like Kellogg, have been slower and are receiving the brunt of Oxfam’s insistence. But all of the big ten have room for improvement: combined, Oxfam estimates that these brands could cut their emissions by an extra 80 million tons before 2020. It will require hard work, and it may require working together as Cargill CEO David MacLennan has stated, but it can be done – and according to the evidence at hand, it should be done sooner rather than later.

 

Read the Full Oxfam Report: http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/policy/standing-sidelines

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Jun 21, 2021

McDonald’s Drive-Thru attendants replaced with AI

McDonald's
AI
Food
restaurant
Helen Adams
2 min
AI is ready to take orders from customers at McDonald's in Chicago and a nationwide rollout is likely

Fast food goliath McDonald's has trialled an AI voice recognition system at several drive-thrus in Chicago, USA, expanding from the one single test in a restaurant launched a few years ago. 

As the price of food rises, businesses look for ways to save money and cutting out entry-level jobs, such as drive-thru attendants, is one option.

 

AI helps businesses, but threatens jobs

In the post-pandemic era, utilising AI technology seems like a sensible idea. AI outperforms human labour in a number of ways:

  • AI drive-thru attendants do not get sick, do not need sick leave, parental leave, holidays, weekends or time off
  • AI do not require payment and cannot set up a Trade Union
  • AI do not have rights
  • AI cannot be late for work
  • AI can be cleaned and remain more hygienic than humans

 

For these reasons, many are concerned that AI could take away job opportunities.

At 16, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, took his first job in the fast food franchise. Bezos said he became grateful for the experience of working under pressure and that the role also taught him about being a good manager. Employing AI in such roles will mean less people get to learn from these entry level jobs. 

 

AI accuracy lacking at McDonald's

McDonald's purchased the drive-thru voice technology from the startup Apprente in 2019.

Apprente creates speech-based AI businesses. The business “delivers enterprising solutions for a broad range of customer service applications that presently necessitate human interaction”.

But the AI technology used in the McDonald’s drive-thru so far, is reportedly only 85% accurate and one fifth of orders need help from a human to put through. For customers with specific dietary requirements, this could lead to problems in order mix-ups. 

Regardless, CEO Kempczinski has estimated five years before a national rollout.

"There's still a lot of work, but (...) we feel good about the technical feasibility of it and the business case," Kempczinski said in a conference transcript from FactSet.

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