Green fast food | U.S. Green Building Council
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Posted in LEED
Published on
Written by
Posted in LEED

Last week in Beijing, China I had the honor of presenting Yum! Brands Inc. with a LEED Gold plaque for their first LEED certified fast food restaurant in the nation’s capital. The restaurant is a local KFC that is impressive both inside and out with several green building strategies that will not only enhance the experience for customers, but also for the delighted staff I had the pleasure to meet.

I could feel the enthusiasm of the entire Yum! LEED project team as they talked with me about their goals of having 100% of their new restaurants be eligible for LEED certification by 2015.

The Shanghai-based China Division of Yum! Brands Inc. has 5,500+ restaurants in 850 cities in China and are positioned, beautifully, to be a key leader for green development throughout China. Yum! Chairman and CEO David Novak has made bold commitments to sustainability, and Chief Sustainability Officer Roger McClendon has committed to integrating LEED into the entire Yum! chain of business, from green facility to sustainable operation, to their supply chain. I wholeheartedly congratulate and encourage them for this leadership and inspiration. These commitments are by no means easy but they do take into account the long-view, if you will: What kind of legacy will our built environment leave for future generations?

One of the most interesting things I discovered was that back in 1987 with its first KFC in China, Yum! Brands Inc.—parent company of KFC—made a key, strategic business decision cementing them as the leading fast food chain in the country: They made KFC local in China and subsequently became leaders in their field.

As a Bloomberg story notes from a few years back:

“The secret to the success...can be traced to its use of local ingredients -- both in its management team and on its menus…Yum! has hired Chinese managers to build partnerships with local companies in its expansion drive and used their expertise to offer an array of regional dishes that appeal to domestic tastes.”

While KFC's longstanding face Colonel Sanders passed away in 1980—some of our popular culture friends have yet to receive this notice—-Sanders' franchise legacy is being sustained in China a generation later through yet another business decision with local roots: They are making sound financial and environmental decisions in pursuing LEED, notably in their third restaurant in China.

LEED is a flexible, accessible and, yes, local tool designed to meet market demand for a variety of green buildings across the globe.  Yum! is creating a model for their stores that's not just about design but also about performance—reducing waste and carbon emissions and creating indoor environments that will be healthier and more comfortable for their customers and employees. They have integrated LEED into their corporate culture—from the CEO to store staff. It is becoming strongly tied to their brand identity in China.

Now, with 480,000 registered restaurant companies in China last year alone—many of them own chain restaurants---Yum! is setting a strong example in the region and using LEED as an effective education tool for the community.

In 1987, Yum! made a very  targeted and deliberate business decision. In 2013, they made an even stronger decision, one that will allow them to prosper for generations to come. Through a small and local decision, Yum! has effectively—and immeasurably—raised the sustainability bar for green buildings in China.

I ask our friends in China, “How will you make such a difference in your built environment? What is your small idea that will have a positively big impact in the future? How can you recreate the model set by pioneers such as Yum! to transform the built environment into one that enhances the world around us?” 

Let’s LEED ON.

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